For more information please call  800.727.2766


Stale Cake Firing May Have Masked Gender Bias

Katie Mayes, a single mother of seven kids, supervised the night shift freight crew at a grocery store owned by WinCo Holdings, Inc. She also had a leadership position on the store’s safety committee.

Ms. Mayes was replaced as chair of the safety committee after a couple of years, purportedly because “a male would be better in that position.” She complained to the assistant general manager. He responded that she should “stay away” from the GM who did not like that “a girl” was running the freight crew. When the general manager learned that a fresh cake had been taken from the bakery, she reviewed the surveillance video. A male worker was seen taking it. The video also showed Ms. Mayes taking a stale cake. According to Ms. Mayes, the store’s general manager had previously given her permission to her to take stale cakes from the store’s bakery. However, both employees were fired for theft and dishonesty as well as banned from the store for 100 years.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found sufficient evidence in the record to support gender bias. The remarks noted above and along with criticism that Ms. Mayes received about leaving early to care for her kids (while male employees were allowed to) directly pertained to Ms. Mayes and the company’s decisional process. The employer’s record on who made the decision to terminate Ms. Mayes was murky but there was some suggestion that the general manager was at least in on it. In addition, Ms. Mayes’ replacement was male. The employer’s argument that it had a good faith belief in her theft was hard to establish when no one at the store admitted to making the termination decision. Additionally, the fact that the GM was a woman did not preclude a gender bias claim according to a prior decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.