My friend and fellow writer, Amy Alkon (author of Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck) received a press release announcing a certain company's celebration of International Women's Day. The press release stated:
[Company] CEO, [Man], is joining the nation in solidarity of women's rights and values by giving his female employees paid time off March 8th. With nearly 35 percent of his company's positions held by women - including a majority of the executive seats and almost the entire PR department - much of the site's operations will shut down for the day.
Does anyone see a problem with that? Alkon did, and she emailed back to ask for clarification:
Alkon: So, men have to work and only women get the day off?
PR person: Yes. Women across the country are participating in a national day of strike (called "A Day Without Women") on International Women's Day as a way of showing how important women are in the workplace. [Company] CEO supports this movement and has encouraged any women in the office who wish to participate to do so.
Alkon: "yes" meaning that men have to work while women get the day off?
PR person: Correct.
Oh boy. You cannot do this. You cannot give women one more vacation day than you give men. It may be popular to say, "Hey, let's do this protest!" or what have you, but federal law prohibits gender discrimination--and that means everyone is a protected class.
Since I'm often amazed that companies will so blatantly violate federal law in an effort to virtue signal (that is, show how right thinking they are), I said I'd name and shame the company.
You'll notice I haven't named the company, even though I'm going to shame them. Why? Because I emailed the PR person and said:
I have a few questions.
1. Only women were allowed this extra day off, correct? All men had to work?
2. Is [Company] aware that this violates federal law?
3. If yes, what is their response to why they chose to violate federal law?
4. If no, what is their response upon learning that treating one gender better than the other is a violation of federal law?
Her response was a horrified backpedal. No, they were not violating federal law because everyone was given an extra vacation day to use whenever they wanted to. She said:
All employees working for [Company] are treated equally. The point of this press release was to show that although many would think working for a [Company] dating site would involve working in an anti feminist environment that is not actually the case. In order to support International Women's Day the CEO gave ALL employees an extra day off whether they used it to observe A Day Without Women or not. No laws have been violated.
So, the company wasn't actually violating discrimination laws, they were just announcing that they were. I don't think this falls into the category of law breaking, just the category of dumb.
You want everyone to know that your company supports cause X. That's fine. But stop and think about what you're really saying. The PR rep didn't understand the implications of her original responses to Alkon. Maybe she didn't check. Maybe she didn't know federal law. I don't know.
Your PR person does need to understand such things. When your company decides to advocate for something you need to think through the consequences of what you're promoting. Do you really, truly mean what you are saying?
Now, for all I know, the company added the extra vacation day for men after being called on it. Live and learn, right? Maybe they did it from the beginning. But no matter how much you think women are oppressed and suffering in the workforce, you don't get to treat them better than you treat men.You know that you can't treat men better than you treat women, so it should be an easy thing to figure out. It's illegal discrimination if you do so. And if you do it on purpose and don't just have poorly written PR, I will name and shame.