In August of 2017, a female employee filed a lawsuit against the President of the St. Louis Regional Chamber alleging that she was passed up for promotion on multiple occasions due to gender discrimination. Karen Ellis served as the director of economic development at the Chamber. She is suing for $75,000.
The lawsuit claims that Ms. Ellis took the job because she was promised advancement within the non-profit. She claims that when she was denied the promotion the Senior Vice President of Economic Development, James Alexander told her it was not the right time for her to pursue such a position because she still had school-aged children. The lawsuit further alleges that Alexander told Ellis that she “did not know her place.”
The position was subsequently filled by a male employee who himself had school-aged children.
Another complicating factor for St. Louis Regional Chamber alleges that an outside recruiting firm was hired to fill another vacancy and considered Ellis a top candidate for the position. After meeting with Alexander and Joe Reagan, the President of Regional Chamber, she was removed from the shortlist.
Allegations of a Hostile Work Environment
In 2013, the former Chief Operating Officer and second in command Beverly Estes alleged that Reagan and company had created a hostile work environment before she left. Estes spent 16 years with the Chamber before leaving in 2013. This led to several anonymous letters actively calling for Reagan’s removal from the organization.
While specifics concerning the reasoning behind Estes’ resignation were not readily available, Estes commented that she did not raise concerns about Reagan because she was concerned for the welfare of the organization.
The Merits of Ms. Ellis’ Discrimination Lawsuit
While this case is still open, there are a number of things Ms. Ellis has going for her in terms of securing a favorable settlement for her suit. Firstly, while much of what was said to her may be denied by the defendants, she was passed up for a better position several times. In at least one instance, there is evidence that a third party recruiting firm considered her a top candidate for the position, but she was later taken off the shortlist under suspicious circumstances.
Finally, there may be other women that worked under Mr. Reagan that can corroborate some of her testimony with experiences of their own.
All of this can prove very damaging to the defense. In a civil case, the plaintiff need only prove that their story is more likely than what the defense claimed. It is difficult to guess what the defense’s strategy will be to explain why Ms. Ellis was removed from a shortlist of candidates when a third party recruiting firm believed her to be among the most qualified available. Likely, whatever they say will not be as convincing as the simple truth that she was passed up for the job because of a bias against women executives.
Have You Been the Victim of Gender Discrimination?
If so, HKM Employment Law of Kansas City, Missouri can help. Give us a call at 816.607.4691, and we will begin discussing your case immediately.