This paper will show that this scenario provides a case for gender discrimination. Gender discrimination is illegal under Title VII (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2007). In addition, this paper will show what legal and ethical issues arise in this case. Furthermore, this paper will show what Bob should do in this case. By using the female employee versus the male employee to serve the customer the company would be in violation of Title VII for gender discrimination. Title VII laws regarding gender cover the full scope of the employment relationship which describes that gender may not be the basis of any decision related to employment unless gender is used as a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). Customer preference is not a legitimate and protected reason to treat otherwise qualified employees differently based on gender.
Additionally, allowing the female employee to assist the customer over the male employee would be in violation of the store’s rotation policy. The policy states that each working day, two employees work in the store; one working the front and one working the back. Rotation occurs on a daily basis in order to disperse commissions fairly. Since this is company policy, there is no flexibility to change that policy and to rotation schedule clearly states that it is the male employee’s turn to earn commission. Discrimination based on gender is illegal and not in keeping with good business practices of efficiency, maximizing resources, and avoiding unnecessary liability.
Title VII Issues
Discrimination comes in all shapes and sizes, and managers have to be careful not to cross the line and do the wrong thing. Companies do not want lawsuits for discrimination or anything else. The store’s best customer, Imelda, probably did not intend to offend anyone nor did she probably know that she was discriminating against anyone. Many times discrimination is not intended. Customers generally believe they are always right and get what they want. However, in this instance the customer is very wrong. Requesting a female employee over a male employee is a form of discrimination, gender discrimination. Gender discrimination is illegal under Title VII (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2007).
If Bob asks Tom to step aside and allow Mary to assist Imelda with her purchases, he will be “in violation of Title VII and can be held liable to the employee for gender discrimination. Customer preference is not a legitimate and protected reason to treat otherwise-qualified employees differently based on gender” (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2007, p. 283). Legally and ethically, Manager Bob cannot swap employees Tom and Mary simply because Imelda wants it.
This is not an easy situation. On one hand, the customer is promising to buy five pairs of shoes if she gets a female employee to help her. This would be a huge purchase for the store, great for the profit margin as well as a large commission for the employee. On the other hand, not providing a female employee may denote a missed sale, Imelda may leave the store. Swapping employees would cheat Tom out of his commission. This would be unethical. Tom deserves his commission; he should not be asked or told to give this up. The Shoe Store has very clear company policies. Company policy does not allow two employees to split the commission (UOPX, 2013, para. 5). As stated previously, having Tom give up his commission would not be fair. Company policy rotates employees to keep commissions as fair and equal as possible (UOPX, 2013, para. 5).
Manager Bob will need to explain to Imelda as nicely and calmly as possible that he is very sorry, but cannot provide her with a female employee. Bob should promise Imelda that Tom is a very nice man and that she will be in very capable hands; ensure her that Tom knows shoes and will treat her and her feet right. Bob should smile and guarantee her that she will be happy with the service she receives. Bob should apologize for the problem, explain that he contacted his regional manager to see if he could make an exception to company policy this time and was told no, and explain that the company risks a discrimination lawsuit. Finally, tell Imelda that he understands if she chooses to shop elsewhere today and apologize again. Bob should not get into an argument with the customer; it is out of the stores control.
In any business, a written policy can avoid or prevent lawsuits. The shoe store chain has clearly established that the rotation of two employees daily or weekly will occur in the store to create fairness in commission sales. In addition, if only two employees are present one works in the back of the store and the other works in front, this clearly creates fairness of commissions earned (pay), good business ethics practice. Working in sales requires a lot of personal judgment from a company representative. By its nature, the job relies heavily on social relationships and on persuasion. Sales people also usually work on commission; if they do not make the sale, they lose cash. In the wrong hands, these elements can lead to unethical behavior, causing undue pressure on customers or vendors. Ethical behavior and doing the correct or right thing is at the forefront for salespeople today. Subsequently ethical performance is an individual process and training development related issues are important. Salespeople require guidelines on ethical, equality and discrimination issues.
The guidelines should be formulated and clearly communicated to help employees to effectively deal with situations of equal pay, fairness, and or discrimination whenever the need arises. Job performance, employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction will prevail with knowledge and understanding of employment laws (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2007). What has guided the ethical issues is the set of standards the company has worked out from human reason by which the human actions to switch Mary for Tom is ultimately creating wrong business ethics. Trading assign duties between sales and costs will not mix. The maximum concern for sales cannot go hand-in- with maximum concern for employees. Furthermore, the shoe store business has added structure to the business by creating this policy.
If the manager deviates from the established policy, Bob will create unfair treatment or discrimination based on gender, which could result in a lawsuit. After Imelda voiced her request that she wanted a female employee Bob was to enforce the company’s policies to avoid a potential lawsuit. Bob did what was necessary to inform Imelda the company’s polices and have Tom assist her with trying on shoes. Bob knows the company will lose money because of the sales lost from this one client; however, the ethical issue arises to do what is fair and correct according the shoe store policy. If Bob makes the switch and has Mary assist Imelda instead of Tom, Bob has violated the discrimination law-Title VII (gender) as well has violating the equal pay law (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2007). The decision is allow Tom to assist Imelda and loose the extra sales. In future, the suggestion to Imelda would be to arrive at the store when a female worker is working the floor or to come in the store to see who is working the sales floor without putting the manager in the position to make compromises.
Discrimination issues can get many companies into trouble. Knowing the law is important for any manager. When questions arise that cannot be answered easily, ask for help. Title VII does not allow discrimination because of gender, meaning a man cannot be treated differently from a female and vice versa. In this case, all must be treated equally. Company policy will not allow Tom and Mary to split the commission and asking Tom to give up his commission would be illegal. Imelda will need to make her own decision whether to shop at the Shoe Store and allow Tom to assist her or leave for another store or until another day. The company must do what is right, what is legal. The store must treats its employees properly and do what is legal and ethical. Whereas Imelda may not be happy, the company cannot do anything that may bring a lawsuit against them.
Bennett-Alexander, D. D., & Hartman, P. L. (2007). Employment law for business (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. University of Phoenix (UOPX). (2013). Week Three. Retrieved from University of Phoenix,
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