A Playboy's Dream–Part 1
"We've spent so much time together these past two years, Fred, I feel like I ought to be buying your kids birthday presents and having them call me Aunt Gloria," Gloria laughed.
Fred nodded in agreement. "I must say, I have spent more time investigating cases here than in any other company in the city. Tell me, did your employees attend a seminar with a hypnotist who told them to file age discrimination claims on a monthly basis–or is your management really that bad?" he joked.
Fred was a local civil rights officer whom Gloria had worked with on a series of age discrimination cases in her company. Together they discovered that some cases were valid, while others were unsubstantiated. Over time, the two grew to trust each other during negotiations. If Gloria felt the company was clearly in the wrong, she avoided protracted negotiations and settled with a fair deal. On the other hand, when she could demonstrate that the case was someone's personal vendetta, which had no factual basis, Fred usually dropped the charges without argument. Their relationship was one of mutual respect.
A recent age discrimination complaint filed by Monique Letac, a 42-year-old former employee, prompted Fred's current visit with Gloria. Monique's boss, Armin Gettles, dismissed her for poor performance. Armin claimed that Monique spent most of her time studying for her real estate license, which had nothing to do with her job and provided no benefit to the company. She also yakked constantly with personal friends on the phone. Monique didn't complete her work assignments on time and continued to make errors. Armin repeatedly requested that Monique refrain from studying on the job and focus on improving her performance. Monique ignored his requests, so Armin fired her. Monique, however, claimed Armin had more compelling reasons for discharging her. She insisted he was looking for an excuse to hire a younger, more attractive woman, so Monique filed an age discrimination suit.
"So what's the deal here, Gloria?" Fred asked.
"It's trumped-up nonsense," Gloria responded. "Yes, Armin hired a replacement that's younger than Monique, but look at Monique's history. Here's her rap sheet," Gloria said, handing Fred Monique's performance reviews and incident file. It listed every occasion where Armin coached and counseled her as well as Monique's failure to improve.
Fred reviewed the papers. "Okay, Gloria, you've sold me, but I have a favor to ask," he added.
"Uh, oh–what's the hitch, Fred?" she said.
"Well, Monique told me that her replacement is a dead ringer for Raquel Welch. How about if I just go through a perfunctory interview with her? I'm curious to see if she's really that gorgeous."
"I think that can be arranged," Gloria conceded, rising from her seat and thinking, "Geez, why are all men alike?!"
Gloria gave Armin's new assistant, Lauren, a call to let her know they were on their way. She and Fred trekked down the hall and caught an elevator to the marketing department located on the eighth floor. When the door opened, a willowy, attractive blonde woman was waiting for an elevator. Gloria noticed Fred giving the blonde a rear-view head-to-toe glance as she stepped into the elevator car beside theirs. When Gloria and Fred arrived at Lauren's desk, Gloria introduced herself and Fred to Lauren. Lauren was gracious and indicated that they would be meeting in Conference Room A for their interview.
"I don't think she's that hot," Gloria thought to herself. "Yeah, she's certainly pretty, but not movie-star quality or anything like that. The only way I can figure the Raquel Welch thing is that maybe her nostrils are a little flared," Gloria observed.
Fred, on the other hand, clearly disagreed with Gloria's assessment. He was grinning from ear to ear. Gloria just chuckled to herself.
As the trio walked to the other end of the department floor toward Conference Room A, Gloria started looking around. "Boy, the women in this department are pretty young," she thought. "But, I guess I knew that. Before Fred arrived, I ran the numbers out on average age, which was 23," she reminded herself. "However, I didn't realize these women were all so attractive," she thought, continuing to scan the faces of the women working busily at their desks.
"I'll be darned, there isn't a 'Plain Jane' in sight," Gloria observed, and then thought, "What's wrong with this picture?" Suddenly Gloria felt her antennae rise. "Something is not right here. There is not one overweight person wearing polyester stretch pants and an overblouse on the entire floor. I feel like I just walked on the movie set of Return of the Stepford Wives–these women do not look like a normal group of department support staff," she realized.
She wasn't about to say anything to Fred and possibly give him further reason for camping out on her doorstep. So she kept her own counsel. After Fred satisfied his curiosity about Lauren by conducting his interview, he agreed to dismiss the case. Gloria quickly escorted him back across the department floor. He attempted to slow down so he could again enjoy the beautiful scenery, but Gloria subtly whisked him onto the elevator. When they reached the lobby, Gloria thanked Fred for his consideration as she walked him to the lobby door.
When Gloria returned to her office, she immediately called Lauren. "Lauren, could you set up a series of interviews with all the secretaries in the department for tomorrow? Make them approximately 30 minutes each."
"Sure. How should I tell them to prepare?" Lauren asked.
"Nothing special, just tell them we are continuing our investigation of age discrimination and need to get their views," she responded. Then Gloria prepared a series of questions to probe into the discrimination issue.
To learn what Gloria uncovered, read Part 2
Excerpted from Sex, Laws, & Stereotypes, by N. Elizabeth Fried, Ph.D.©