Fourth Circuit Allows Sex Discrimination in Severance go Forward

Fourth Circuit Allows Sex Discrimination in Severance go Forward

The Fourth Circuit just overturned a District Court decision dismissing an employee’s sex discrimination claim.  Karla Gerner was notified that her job was going to be eliminated, and was offered three months’ pay to release her claims.  She was then fired by her employer, a Virginia County, after turning down a severance offer.  Gerner identified four males who had been given better treatment when the County decided their jobs should be eliminated.  She was offered 3 months; the men got six months, more pension eligibility, replacement jobs, and the like.  The County argued that she had no case because her severance offer was not a contractual employment benefit, and her effective date of firing was before she turned down the severance.

The Fourth Circuit employed a broader view of the “terms and conditions of employment” though.  Though an employment benefit is voluntarily granted by an employer, it still must not discriminate in granting the benefits.  In addition, prospective, current, and past employees are all protected from discrimination on the basis of sex.

Ms. Gerner now has a chance to go to trial on her claims of sex discrimination.

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