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One-Third Too Many

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Discrimination Against Women Alive and Well in 2013

Earlier this week the Center for American Progress and ELLE magazine released a poll that unpacks what professional men and women think about “leaning in.”

Disappointingly, nearly one-third of women reported having personally experienced discrimination at work. Women at the top were 45 percent more likely to say they have experienced discrimination. Some 20 percent of men in the survey agreed that they’d be paid less if they were a woman.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of stories to underscore what women in the CAP/Elle poll reported. ThinkProgress’ Tara Culp-Ressler and Bryce Covert round up five startling examples of how employers turn women into sex objects at work:

A New Jersey judge ruled that casino waitresses can be fired for gaining weight.

Twenty two former cocktail servers sued a popular casino in Atlantic City over a policy that forbids waitresses from gaining more than seven percent of their original body weight. The women were subject to regular weigh-ins, and the policy meant that a 130-pound woman was not allowed to gain more than 9.1 pounds. They alleged it was weight discrimination — but an Atlantic County Superior Court Judge disagreed. In July, the judge ruled that casino waitresses are essentially “sex objects,” and it’s okay to fire them for gaining weight because they are no longer fulfilling their contractual obligations.

A widely-used employee training manual tells women how to make sure they don’t lead men on.

Earlier this week, Jezebel reported that a popular manager training guide — used as companies like Google, Groupon, and Modcloth — essentially tells women that they’re responsible for preventing advances from their male co-workers. The manual tells women who are “touchy-feely or flirtatious by nature” to “dial it back,” suggests women socialize in groups, and advises women to avoid “revealing clothing” or “ending statements with an upward inflection.”

Women at Merrill Lynch have been instructed to seduce their way to the top.

Other employee trainings have similarly gone off the rails when it comes to guidance on women’s behavior in the workplace. Female employees at Merrill Lynch allege they were made to read a book called “Seducing the Boys Club: Uncensored Tactics From a Woman at the Top” and to make use of its advice to get ahead. To get men to do their work, the book suggested “play[ing] on their masculine pride and natural instincts to protect the weaker sex.” To diffuse tense situations, it pointed out that men “puff up” at being told, “Wow, you look great. Been working out?” The women also allege that they were pressured to attend female-only events on “dressing for success” and were told to be more “perky” and “bubbly.”

The Iowa Supreme Court decided it’s okay to fire attractive women if they pose a risk to men’s marriages.

James Knight, a dentist in Iowa, didn’t fire his female assistant Melissa Nelson after 10 years of working for him because of performance reasons. Instead, Nelson alleges that Knight’s wife told him to do it because “she was a big threat to our marriage” given that he was sexually attracted to her. Yet in July, the all-male Iowa Supreme Court stood by an earlier decision that she wasn’t improperly fired because it wasn’t gender discrimination. Instead, her firing was found permissible because of the facts surrounding her relationship with Knight, such as several comments he made about her clothing and the fact that they texted each other after work hours.

Two hotel employees were fired after they complained about being photoshopped onto bikini-clad bodies.

Two sisters, Martha and Lorena Reyes, say they were fired from the Hyatt Hotel in Santa Clara, CA after they complained about photoshopped images of them. In the photos, the women’s heads were photoshopped onto the bodies of women wearing bikinis. Lorena told Jezebel that they were “extremely humiliating and shameful for me” and also said she has never worn a bikini, even at home. While the company says it fired them two days after they complained about the images because they took overly long breaks, the sisters feel it was related to the incident. The Reyes sisters have filed a retaliation charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Check out the rest of the CAP/ELLE poll HERE.