Hardly a day goes by when hot topics like wage gap, glass ceiling, and gender discrimination aren’t mentioned in the news, but these common side-effects of working in the corporate environment mostly affect women.
One man decided to take the #MeToo movement a little further and file a lawsuit against his employer to prove that men can also become victims of gender discrimination. Surprisingly, he won the case and claimed $390,000 in damages.
Woman Beats Male Employee for a Manager’s Role
Most women don’t end up getting promotions at work despite being highly qualified and in rare cases when they do manage to break the glass ceiling, they don’t earn the same wages and benefits as their male counterparts.
One Austrian man recently took his employer to court for choosing a less qualified woman, simply because of her gender, for a promotion that he deserved. Unfair, isn’t it? Well, welcome to a woman’s world.
The incident occurred in 2011 when the Social Democrat and Austrian Parliament’s second president, Doris Bures, decided to consolidate two departments in the Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology and opened a new managerial role that employees could apply for. An Austrian man named Peter Franzmayr who worked in the ministry decided to try his luck, hoping for a promotion that could change his life.
Competing against Franzmayr for the manager’s position were two other candidates who were considered highly qualified for the role – a bit too qualified in comparison to Franzmayr, apparently. However, only one of the applying candidates was a woman who eventually ended up getting the new position, beating her male peers by just 0.25 per cent.
A $390,000 Lawsuit
Ursula Zechner, who was already a head of the rail regulator Schienen-Control, was considered the best fit for the new managerial role, but her two male competitors didn’t take her victory too well. And the incident turned into a lawsuit with Peter Franzmayr claiming that he was treated unfairly, and the promotion which he was deserving of went to a woman who wasn’t as qualified as he was.
The case was heard in the Federal Administrative Court which is maintained by three male judges. So it didn’t come as a surprise when they decided to side with Franzmayr, who didn’t just win the lawsuit but also walked away with $390,000 in damages for the salary difference he was entitled to, had he gotten the promotion.
Zechner outdid the male candidates by only 0.25 per cent – since when has such a small difference in qualification been counted as a sizable offense, worth thousands of dollars in damages, and why has it never worked in the reverse situation when it is the female employees who are at the receiving end of unfair treatment?
According to the AFP report, the judges said that the gender discrimination was a discernible pattern and that Zechner had been unjustly favored over other candidates for as long as she dad been working there.
Standing by Her Decision
Doris Bures, who was the head of the department at the time, stood by her decision and said that she had chosen Zechner over Franzmayr because she genuinely believed that she was a better match than the other candidates. The decision was somewhat influenced by the fact that the industry was largely underrepresented by women but the entire process was carried out in a lawful manner with no intention to treat the employees unjustly due to their gender.
Doris is hopeful that her decision to hire Zechner will be a step in the right direction and encourage other corporations to promote more qualified women to close the gender gap in workplaces.
After filing the lawsuit, Franzmayr left the ministry to work as a lawyer for four years. He eventually returned to the public sector where he was hired as a supervisor Austria’s motorway network operator called Asfinag.