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California Civil Rights Law Group (CCRLG) celebrates International Women’s Day! This Global Day of Recognition takes place every year on March 8 to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It also marks a call for action to accelerate women’s equality in the workplace. To highlight the day, CCRLG honors the courageous women who speak up against workplace discrimination and join the fight for equality, including some of our own clients:  

Tessa Kriesel is speaking up against sex discrimination and gaslighting at a Bay Area e-commerce startup. Ms. Kriesel is a former Senior Manager of Developer Relations at FastAF Inc. She was routinely subjected to gender discrimination and gaslighting by her predominantly male coworkers. Because of Ms. Kriesel’s gender, a male Product Manager excluded her from important discussions, interrupted her during calls, and undervalued her opinions and ideas. She reported the ongoing discriminatory treatment to her supervisor, Director of Marketing. Unfortunately, rather than following FastAF policy by investigating the discrimination, the company fired Ms. Kriesel the same day she complained in writing. Even at the time of her termination, Ms. Kriesel spoke out against gender discrimination and notified the Human Resource Manager and Senior Director Talent Acquisition about the sexism and gaslighting she experienced as a woman at FastAF. Ms. Kriesel was offered a severance package in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement, which she refused to sign, instead choosing to tell her story in public:

“Honestly, I just want justice. I really am sick of tech companies continuing to mistreat people of any underrepresented community, whether it’s gender, whether it’s race, whether it’s class,” Ms. Kriesel said in her interview with Business Insider.

CCRLG commends Ms. Kriesel’s courage and bravery in standing up against a male-dominated tech company.

Christin Figueroa is speaking up against mistreatment of lactating women at work. She filed a lawsuit against her former employer, St. Helena Hospital, after she was harassed by her coworkers for lactating, was denied a private space to lactate, and was not provided with sufficient time to lactate. As a lactating woman and new mother, Ms. Figueroa had to pump express breast milk multiple times per day. Immediately following her return from maternity leave, Ms. Figueroa was denied a private room to express breast milk and was forced to pump in a bathroom. Her colleagues began harassing her, commenting that she was going to “milk herself” when she left to pump milk and knocking on the door as she pumped. One colleague held a mug up to Ms. Figueroa’s breasts and asked, “May I have some milk for my coffee?” Instead of condemning the inappropriate behavior, another colleague joined in requesting Ms. Figueroa’s breast milk for his coffee. Ms. Figueroa complained to her supervisor, Laboratory Director, about the harassment and lack of lactation accommodation. Ms. Figueroa’s supervisor ignored her complaints. As result, Ms. Figueroa had no choice but to express milk in her car to avoid the ridicule of her colleagues. In a last-ditch effort to have St. Helen Hospital stop the discriminatory and harassing treatment, Ms. Figueroa complained to the Human Resource Department. However, the discrimination and harassment continued. After enduring months of humiliating harassment and pumping in her car, Ms. Figueroa was forced to resign.

Despite the embarrassment, shame, and mental and emotional suffering that Ms, Figueroa endured at the hands of her former employer, she found the strength to speak up for herself and for lactating women workers who need a supportive and safe environment to express breast milk.

Jennifer Herrington is speaking up against gender inequity in leadership and to give women workers a voice. She is suing her employer of 19 years, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), after being subjected to sex-based discrimination and retaliation. Ms. Herrington had a successful career with TNC until she was promoted to the new role of Preserve Property Manager for the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve and moved to Lompoc, California. When Ms. Herrington assumed her role, she discovered that she was one of only two female employees, and everyone in positions superior to hers was a man. Almost immediately, Ms. Herrington observed that male decisions and recommendations were valued over women such as herself. Her male supervisors second-guessed her opinions and precluded her from making decisions within her role. Moreover, Ms. Herrington faced backlash from the Preserve Director for refusing to comply with the Preserve Director’s instructions that violated Santa Barbara County Code and IRS requirements related to land management and infrastructure development. Frustrated with Ms. Herrington’s gender and her refusal to follow unlawful directives, the Preserve Director terminated Ms. Herrington’s employment. Ms. Herrington was falsely told that her position was eliminated, only to discover that following her termination TNC posted an advertisement for a position identical to Ms. Herrington’s and hired a man for her role.

Just like Mses. Kriesel and Figueroa, Ms. Herrington joined the fight for equality in the workplace by filing a lawsuit against TNC.

According to Pew Research Center, about four in ten working women (45%) in the United States say they have faced discrimination on the job because of their gender. Research shows that workplace inequality affects not only individuals but negatively impacts the productivity and profitability of companies. Companies with higher gender diversity on executive teams are more likely to have above-average profitability. Yet, despite the strong incentive for tackling the problem, gender inequality in the workplace persists. This is why it is vital to encourage women to speak up against gender-based discrimination in the workplace to eliminate gender-based inequality effectively.