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Glass Ceiling Claims – Invisible Barriers to Advancement

First, it is important understand the term ‘glass ceiling’. This refers to a company that has a policy or practice to prevent certain employees from climbing the corporate ladder. Historically, the term ‘glass ceiling’ referred to companies that would not allow women to advance in the company. Oftentimes, women were not considered viable candidates for higher level positions if these women were mothers or of child-bearing age. Antiquated stereotypes thrived on the hurtful assumption that these women could not possibly balance dual roles as a mother and an executive.

However, these glass ceilings, which are invisible barriers do not affect just women. Indeed, at Davis & Davis, P.C., we have represented many male clients who were unfairly denied promotional opportunities because of an immutable characteristic, such as the color of their skin. Historically, ‘glass ceiling’ claimants were people of color; however, there are some companies that take their diversity efforts to such an extreme that Caucasian employees are intentionally being marginalized. Companies that support diversity should be applauded for their efforts, but companies also need to be cognizant of the fact that the biggest factor in promotional decisions should be merit based – is the company promoting the most qualified employee.

If you suspect that you are being blocked from advancement opportunities, you should consider contacting an employment law expert to evaluate your situation, identify potential resolutions and to create a strategic roadmap to help you navigate through the process.

There are a number of factors and examples that may help gather relevant information prior to meeting with your attorney. It would be helpful it you could gather evidence of the following:

  • Being subjected to discriminatory comments, even if these comments were meant to be lighthearted and ‘joking’
  • Being assigned stereotypical projects. By way of example only, asking a female to make coffee for a staff meeting, or to clean up after a meeting
  • Being paid less money than your peers who are in similar positions
  • Being ignored for meetings, or even off-site social and networking events. By way of example only, asking a male subordinate to join the boss at a sporting event, but assuming that a female subordinate has no interest in attending a sporting event.

Glass ceilings historically blocked women from advancement, but courts are now recognizing that the concept of a glass ceiling can apply to virtually anyone who is being denied advancement opportunities based upon membership in a protected class.

Should you speak to Human Resources? Unfortunately, there is no standard, one-size-fits-all answer. Many HR employees are dedicated to ensuring that employees’ rights are respected. Unfortunately, in some organizations, the HR department’s focus is on protecting the company and its leadership, and not the people who work for those leaders. If you have any reservations, you should speak to an experienced employment law specialist before making a decision.

If you believe that you are being denied opportunities because of a glass ceiling within your organization, call the attorneys at Davis & Davis, P.C.

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