Kimberly A. Elkjer of Dallas-based Scheef & Stone is suing the firm because of its ban on men and women working alone together. The suit claims this policy made it more difficult for women to advance in their careers there. From AOL Jobs:
While the rules are no longer in effect, Elkjer’s lawsuit says, they created a segregated culture that persists — a culture that denies female attorneys the same opportunities for business and for raises as their male colleagues, and hurts their ability to work. This violates the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act, her suit states, which prohibits employers from making decisions that harm the “terms, conditions, or privileges” of employees on the basis of gender.
“If their concern was harassment or something, you wouldn’t do that to African American employees,” says [Elkjer’s attorney Amy] Gibson. ” ‘We’re afraid someone will accuse us of racial harassment, so white employees can’t be alone with African American employees.’ That’s crazy.”
The firm says there’s no evidence to support Elkjer’s claims.
The lawsuit wasn’t specific about the exact wording or rationale of the policy, or the years that it was in effect. Gibson says that she’s concerned about violating the firm’s confidentiality policy, which was brought to her attention — in a manner she found “threatening” — not long before she filed suit.
UPDATE: The PR firm for Scheef & Stone asked me to share their full statement on the suit. Take the jump if you’d like to read it:
There is no evidence to support Ms. Elkjer’s false claims. In fact, objective evidence and our business records will clearly show that Ms. Elkjer disagrees with legitimate business decisions based on objective non-discriminatory criteria by the firm’s management that have nothing to do with gender and apply to all attorneys in the firm.
No other female attorneys at the firm support Ms. Elkjer’s false claims. We are fully prepared to defend this case.
They also asked me to add that their policy (no longer in effect) stated that males and females “should not work together behind closed doors. It did not say they could not work together — which they do on a daily basis.”