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Jury Sides with 'Tomboy' in Sexual Stereotype Retaliation Lawsuit

November 22, 2010

In recent employment news that our Carson, California labor and employment attorneys have been following, a federal jury in Des Moines, Iowa ruled that Heartland Inns of America wrongfully terminated a female employee because of her "tomboy" appearance, and for not conforming to company's sexual stereotypes and how women should "look" as employees of the hotel.

Brenna Lewis had reportedly been working for Heartland, an Iowa hotel chain, since 2005, where she received positive comments from her supervisors and customers, and while working at Heartland received two merit-based pay raises.

In 2007, Lewis was reportedly hired for a day shift to cover a front-desk job by the company's director of operations, Barbara Cullinan. Records show that Cullinan verbally approved the hiring over the phone, but after seeing Lewis's appearance, stated that a second interview would be necessary. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Cullinan allegedly stated that Lewis lacked the "Midwestern girl-look" necessary to work in the hotel staff, and that girls working the front desk should be "pretty." Lewis was then reportedly fired from the company's Ankeny hotel three days later after challenging the second interview.

Lewis has reportedly been referred to as a "tomboy," and described herself in the lawsuit as preferring to wear clothes that have a more of a masculine look and fit, including men's loose-fitting oxford shirts and slacks. She claims she was fired because of sexual stereotype discrimination because she wasn't "pretty" enough to work at the front desk. Heartland claimed that Lewis was fired for being was hostile to new company policies, and for thwarting the procedure behind the interviewing process.

Lewis sought monetary damages on retaliation and sexual stereotype discrimination. The Iowa jury favored Lewis's retaliation claim, and awarded her over $50,000, but rejected her sexual stereotype discrimination claim. The appeals court reportedly wrote in its January decision that an employer who discriminates against a female employee because they don't wear dresses or makeup is engaging in sexual discrimination, and companies may not base employment decisions on sexual stereotypes.

If you or someone you know in Orange County or throughout Southern California has a labor or employment issue, our team of Anaheim-based team of attorneys and professionals can help find a solution for your recovery. Contact us today.

Jury: Iowa Hotel Unlawfully Fired 'Tomboy' Worker, Bloomberg Businessweek, November 16, 2010

Iowa Court Rules 'Tomboy' Clerk Can Sue Hotel Over Firing, USA Today, January 22, 2010

Related Web Resources:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (EEOC)