Ann Hopkins Case Analysis Essay Research Paper

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Ann Hopkins Case Analysis Essay, Research Paper Ann Hopkins worked as a senior manager for the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse for four years, Hopkins became a candidate for partnership in 1984. After being denied partnership, she filed suit against Price Waterhouse charging that the firm had discriminated against her on the basis of sex by allowing gender stereotypes to heavily influence the firm’s employment practices. During her employment with Price Waterhouse, Hopkins proved herself a hard-working, dedicated employee. In the year of her proposal for partnership, for example, Hopkins generated more business and billed more hours than any other candidate. She was also heavily praised by her supervisors for maintaining excellent relations with her clients as well as

for landing a highly coveted $25 million contract with the Department of State that, according to Price Waterhouse, was a “leading credential” for the firm in competing for other government contracts. Nevertheless, Hopkins’ bid for partnership was denied by the firm. The primary reason stated by the firm for Hopkins’ rejection was her perceived lack of “interpersonal skills” and her alleged mistreatment of staff. Indeed, most of the negative comments made about Hopkins during the evaluation period had to do with her deficient social graces and her aggressive, overbearing style. Many of the negative comments made about Hopkins by the partners, however, reflect their bias against her not as a colleague but as a woman. One partner criticized Hopkins for acting too

“macho” while another claimed that she “overcompensated for being a woman.” Yet another partner suggested that Hopkins “take a course at charm school,” and the firm’s Policy Board, after informing Hopkins of her rejection, recommended that she “walk more femininity, talk more femininity, dress more femininity, wear make-up, have her hair styled, and wear jewelry.” In light of these comments, the United States Supreme Court found that Price Waterhouse did discriminate against Ann Hopkins by permitting gender stereotypes to play a significant role in its decision to reject her candidacy for partnership. The Court further held that when a plaintiff in a federal anti-discrimination suit “proves that her gender played a motivating part in an employment decision,

the defendant may avoid a finding of liability only by proving by a preponderance of the evidence that it would have made the same decision even if it had not taken the plaintiff’s gender into account.” In other words, when a plaintiff effectively shows that gender-bias did influence a particular employment decision, the defendant may then escape a finding of liability by demonstrating that it would have made the same decision regardless of the plaintiff’s gender. Thus, in cases where an employment decision is made for both legitimate and discriminatory reasons, the defendant may avoid liability by showing that it would have made the same decision in the absence of the discriminatory factor. The Court’s holding in the Price Waterhouse case reflects the conventional

‘equality approach’ to sex discrimination cases. Under this approach, courts are required to determine whether an allegedly discriminatory employer would have made the same decision about a female employee had her gender not been taken into account. In order to find that unlawful discrimination has occurred, therefore, a court must decide that a woman would have received different treatment had she been a man of similar qualifications and skills. The equality approach, however, is not “forceful enough to withstand obstacles thrown up by men who will not promote women considered either ‘too feminine’ or ‘too masculine’ because [it] does not recognize that issues other than actual competence may affect employment decisions.” By asking only whether a woman is