Q: I worked as a sales representative for a nationwide company for five years. About 40% of the sales force consisted of female sales reps, yet the men were the only ones to make it into the "Achievers Club," where they made up to $300,000 compared to the females making just over $100,000. As top achievers, the men also received gifts such as extravagant vacations, Rolex watches, stock options and more.
The reason the men made three times more than the women was because our female boss favored men by giving them top-quality leads that offered the greatest potential. The women received leads offering the lowest potential. Our boss knew which leads were the best, and she alone controlled the distribution. I brought up the topic to her several times, but nothing changed.
I compared the number of men to women and analyzed the percentage of how many women and men would make the Achievers Club. At least two to three females should have been in the top 12 each year, but only men made it the entire time I worked there.
I was so frustrated I resigned, and when she said she didn't receive the letter, I sent it to her and her managers regarding the entire situation. No one addressed the situation with me or any of the other women, but they did pay me all of my commission. Is filing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission worth it?
A: Let's consider both the practical and legal side of the situation. It's unfortunate you allowed your frustration to take over. You were in a more strategically favorable situation to seek a new position rather than be unemployed. Despite the alleged inequality of leads, $100,000 or more is not a sum to reject, and now you could be faced with being unemployed for longer than you would like. More importantly, you might have had access to any information the EEOC may have asked for to learn more about the less-qualified leads given to the women.
Your boss and her managers could not discuss or adjust the situation with you, as they feared a lawsuit. They were probably waiting to see if you planned on filing a complaint.
No one can guarantee whether it's worth it for you to file an EEOC charge against the company, just as there are no guarantees of a guilty verdict in a court of law. EEOC investigators will review your information and documentation, but as with any government system, they may be overwhelmed with the workload and slow to determine whether your charge can be supported by law. Many who file an EEOC charge also consult an attorney who concentrates on such lawsuits.
You may want to contact the other women in the same sales position you held to see if they are interested in filing as well. If they join you in your pursuit of equality, they will be protected by law against retaliatory termination by the company. Of course, if a company wants to find other reasons to terminate employment, it may do so.
Filing an EEOC charge can also be an emotional journey as you take on a major company, but you have already left your job, so you may as well look into the potential. You will need documentation regarding the leads, distribution of leads and sales made to prove favoritism, but if your female colleagues join you in the fight for equal leads that translate into equal pay, you and the others may stand a better chance of winning.
Email your workplace issues and experiences to [email protected] For more information about career and life coach Lindsey Novak, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com, and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/at-work-lindsey-novak.
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