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Sex Discrimination Lawsuit May Go Forward

Woman Who Refused to Fire Clerk Over Looks Can Sue

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- April 25, 2003 -- A sales manager who refused to fire a cosmetics clerk based on her looks can file a sexual discrimination suit, the California 1st District Court of Appeal has ruled. Ms. Yanowitz, the plaintiff, said that a male executive ordered her to dismiss the employee because she was "not good looking enough." He then told Ms. Yanowitz to find "somebody hot" instead, according to her account.

After Ms. Yanowitz did not comply with the request, she received negative performance reviews, including a memo that called her "too assertive." She also claims that the company closely monitored her activities and solicited employees to file complaints against her. Both Ms. Yanowitz and the cosmetics clerk had been top sales performers in the company, according to prior records.

The Appeals Court reversed a lower court ruling, which found that Ms. Yanowitz had not engaged in any protected activity. "A male executive's order to fire a female employee because she fails to meet the executive's standards for sexual attractiveness is an act of sex discrimination when no similar standards are applied to men," Associate Justice Linda M. Gemello wrote for the court. "A lower-level manager's refusal to carry out that order is protected activity, and an employer may not retaliate against her for that refusal."

The full text of the case, Elysa Yanowitz v. L'Oreal USA, Inc., March 7, 2003, A095474, can be found on the California Courts web site. (If you do not already have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer, you may download a free copy in order to access the case). If you have any questions about employment discrimination and your legal rights, please feel free to contact us through this web site or at our offices.

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