A U.S. District Court in Maryland recently denied an employer’s motion for summary judgment allowing the EEOC to pursue its allegation that an employer engaged in discriminatory practices regarding a promotion EEOC v. Dimensions Healthcare Sys., No. 15-2342 (D. Md. Sept. 2, 2016).   

The employer’s Associate Vice President (“AVP”) is alleged to have advised a female promotional candidate that a male applicant received the position because he had a management background, whereas the female plaintiff had taken “maternity leave for a while.”   This statement purportedly was made close in time to the announcement of the promotion decision.  During the course of her deposition, the AVP purportedly stated that she purposely waited to demote a different employee when that person returned from maternity leave because she didn’t want to touch the employee “with a ten foot pole” while she was still pregnant and on leave.  Although the AVP denied making the remarks regarding the promotion, her denial did not defeat summary judgment and instead created an issue of fact for a jury.  Such statements, if made, reasonably could be direct evidence of discrimination in violation of Title VII.

Employers should review their anti-discrimination training programs, and where necessary, provide regular refresher courses to their management employees so as to avoid similar outcomes.