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March 10, 2009


Dear HR Guy:

We have a sales executive who clearly prefers male sales reps and managers. The female reps and managers complain that he is intimidating, rude and threatening to them. He says things like "I don't have these problems with the 'guys.' He also extols the praises of the male employees and ignores the accomplishments of the female employees. He makes up rules as he goes along with the female reps, but gives the male reps a great deal of leeway.

I'm concerned he going to start terminating these female employees, and I cringe at the consequences. He really has it in for one female rep in particular who has been with the company since day one. He really resents how much access she has to senior management because of her early tenure with the company. He goes out of his way to make her life miserable and to undermine her effectiveness.

I once worked for a company that lost a huge wrongful termination lawsuit because a sales executive, who was promoted to VP, fired a sales rep he didn't like - just because he could. The rep had always been on or above quota. The rep sued, and the award was so big they had to put it in the annual report!

This current situation has gender discrimination issues and wrongful termination emblazoned all over it. But the CEO has a lot on his plate right now, and he's not up for what sounds like petty squabbling amount the troops. Help!


Dear Ellie:

Do you guys have a good law firm on retainer? Because it sounds like you're going to need one! And a good PR firm, too...

From what you've described, this sales exec is a nightmare -- a real lawsuit waiting to happen... Your CEO may have a lot on his plate, but if he doesn't pay attention to this potential problem now, he's going to be spending much more of his time, not to mention money, on it later. Somebody needs to pull this sales exec aside and tell him to cool his heels before you guys get sued. At best, what he's doing is wrong and bad for morale. At worst, it is downright illegal and will open your company to expensive litigation and negative publicity. My only caveat is that you be sure that something is really going on before you act!

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues