The proliferation of high-profile tech industry gender discrimination class action lawsuits, including those against Twitter and Microsoft has led to increased awareness of the problem as well as speculation on how to actually end gender discrimination in tech.
It is no longer news that women experience significant and ongoing unequal pay, discrimination, and sexual harassment in the male-dominated technology industry in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, in spite of decades of steadfast work towards gender equality. What can be done about the issue?
According to Business Insider, who interviewed Anita Hill on the subject, perhaps more women need to come forward and file class action lawsuits to hold major corporations accountable for their wrongdoings. Ms. Hill notes that women in tech “can’t afford to wait for the tech industry to police itself — and there are few indications that it will ever do so.” Business Insider notes that “Class-action lawsuits take time, and it’s not uncommon for defendants to resist handing over documents requested by the plaintiffs.” Though filing a class action may be “the best way to resolve systemic discrimination,” there are numerous barriers and challenges facing women who take up that path.
“Many tech employees have clauses in their employment contracts that discourage legal action. Others fear that filing suit will make it harder for them to find a job in the future,” Lieff Cabraser attorney Anne B. Shaver told Business Insider. “And then there are the cultural barriers. The industry encourages employees to internalize their successes and failures, rather than blaming others for them. That attitude can be the most difficult hurdle to overcome.”
Women who pursue gender discrimination lawsuits on an individual basis tend to have a more difficult time keeping their cases from being dismissed. And even when individual cases move forward, victory is not guaranteed. The group approach via the class action device may make all the difference.
“Tech is a sector where women have been extremely reluctant because it’s such a culture of individual merit,” Shaver said. “The value of the class action is that it gives you access to the data of what’s happened across an entire company, and you are able to see those patterns for what’s happening to women compared to men.”
Upholding Employee Rights
Lieff Cabraser’s nationally-recognized employment lawyers are litigating many of the most significant employment class action lawsuits in our nation today. These cases challenge gender and race discrimination, where female or minority employees are not hired, are paid less than their white male counterparts, or are given fewer opportunities to advance at the company; policies requiring hourly workers to report to work early, stay late, or work through breaks for no pay (off-the-clock work); policies classifying employees as salaried who should have been classified as hourly workers and received overtime pay; and pension plan abuses under Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) claims on behalf of employees and retirees.
About Anne Shaver
Ms. Shaver is a partner in our San Francisco office whose practice focuses on employment law cases. A 2007 graduate of University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Berkeley Law), she was a student director of the Workers’ Rights Clinic of Centro Legal de la Raza in Oakland, and a volunteer at the Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center. She is active in wage and hour, employment discrimination, and antitrust cases.