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Gender Discrimination: Preferential Treatment in the Workplace

Will is an intern at a government engineering office where he works within a team of four other interns; they all report to one primary boss, Jim. Will notices that Jim has drastically different approaches in dealing with male and female interns. He often sends Will and his fellow male interns on faraway projects or tedious tasks that he never assigns to the only female intern, Meghan. On her part, Meghan is also unhappy with this extra attention as she only gets in-office engineering projects working alone with Jim and no experience of being in the field. As a prestigious conference approaches, Jim predictably selects Meghan as a representative for the office without even informing the other interns about the opportunity.

The interns collectively get a little more curious about Jim's background and realize that numerous sexual harassment cases have been filed against Jim in the past, though he has never been prosecuted. They are informed that these types of charges in government offices have to be followed with strict adherence to state policies including having an investigator ask the whole office specifics regarding the situation.

Despite the urgings of her teammates, Meghan is reluctant to file her own report as she does not want to confront Jim directly and an anonymous report would easily be traced to her. Fearing that the report will compromise her prospects at full-time employment at the office, she tells Will that she will just deal with it for the rest of the internship: “It's only another three months anyways.”

What should Will do?

Posted June 2013

Comments Comments

Jiya Gonzales said on Oct 13, 2014
Considering the facts of the case, Jim has not made any advances towards Meghan as of now. But it is also a fact that Jim has adopted favorable approach towards Meghan. It is also a fact that he was involved in Sexual Harassment cases but was never prosecuted. Thus we can not safely assume this favorable attitude towards Meghan as an intention to harass her. It can also arise out of care, consideration for the women intern who is new to the organisation. Undoubtedly it appears unfair to the other interns because they are unable to grab the opportunities provided to the women intern but it can be justified through Positive discrimination which is necessary to show towards women employees/intern so that they can grow and develop their abilities in the organisation. The options that Will has are:- a) He can convince Meghan to talk to Jim and ask for a job in the field so that she can explore the various aspects surrounding the field job. If she succeeds in the effort she will not hurt her chances of full employment and will be seen as a devoted worker. This will not be seen as an insult to Jim whose real intentions are still unknown. There is no need for filing a report and any further investigation.This is best for all. b) He can convince Meghan to confront Jim and make him known that she feels uncomfortable because of the unwanted attention she receives from him. This might change his attitude towards her and might reduce incidences of unwanted attention. This will be good for Meghan in the short term. But it might hurt her chances of full employment because Jim might feel offended. Since real intentions are not clear there might be retributive actions from Jim which might hurt Meghan in the short term as well. This may and may not affect the other interns. c) Will confronting Jim about the unequal treatment meted out to the other interns is another option. This might force Jim to bring out his real intentions about these inequality. This might change his attitude towards Meghan. However, there is a chance that Will might face retribution later on. But this is a favorable option because Will has a right to know and he does not need to be afraid about being penalised about it later on. d) Making an anonymous complain about the unequal treatment to the interns. This again is a fact and can be proved. The complaint cannot be traced back to any intern. No one will be penalized later on. There will be a change in attitude towards Meghan and other interns. However, there will be delay in the process. Thus Will must try out option (a) first. If that is unsuccessful go for option (d).
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Tags: Just out of SCU, Uncomfortable Attention