Case Study 3: Discrimination and Job-Sharing
Job-sharing allows two people to share one position. In such an arrangement, the two individuals must coordinate their work, agree on work schedules, and communicate effectively with their manager about how tasks are being completed. Most job-sharers are highly motivated to ensure that the arrangement works well because they enjoy the freedom that working a part-time position affords. Some companies even extend employee benefits to both job holders, even though it will cost companies more money to do so.
At Pharmacare, a large pharmaceutical company located in Boston, Massachusetts, job-sharing is a policy that has been cautiously proposed by senior management. Pharmacare is a research-based company with approximately 80,000 employees world-wide – 25,000 are in sales and marketing, 20,000 concentrate on research and development, and the rest are in supportive positions such as information technology, human resources, manufacturing, finance, strategic planning, and other supporting staff positions. The company is currently working on drugs to prevent various cancers and auto-immune diseases. Its scientists have been involved in studying the role of various genes in the body in hopes of offering gene therapies that may cure auto-immune diseases such as leukemia and lupus. Pharmacare has 60 manufacturing sites in 30 different countries.
Pharmacare’s policy about job-sharing reads as follows:
At the discretion of management, employees may share a job – each working half-time. Some jobs in the organization are more suited to this arrangement than others. Jobs in which responsibilities can be divided easily and positions that do not require a lot of client contact may be suitable. Individuals wishing to apply for a job-share should contact the human resources department for more information.
Janice Newman and Sandra Price are both research scientists at one of Pharmacare’s labs, located at its headquarters. They have both appreciated their job-sharing arrangement in their current position since each has young children and wants to spend more time with them. Janice works on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until noon so that she is home with her two children after they come home from school. Sandra works Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. Sandra has a live-in nanny who takes care of her twin infants every afternoon until she arrives back home. Both Sandra and Janice have been willing to use their lunch hour to meet so as to ensure the smooth transition of work. Although Sandra’s and Janice’s manager, Mary Bynum, was at first leery about the arrangement, she soon discovered that it was working much better than she anticipated. The women worked hard, communicated well between each other, and kept her well-informed. The only additional burden for Mary has been in evaluating their performance separately and writing up two performance reviews each year.
“I have had to do the paperwork on two different employees for the same job which has added a little more work to my plate. But I honestly think I have gotten more out of two part-time employees than I would from either one of them alone. They seem to have energy and enthusiasm and great focus when they are here,” Mary offered.
Since Janice and Sandra have operated in a job-sharing manner, their performance has been very good. Each has received “outstanding” or “very good” ratings since they’ve taken on the job-sharing arrangement.
Recently, Janice noticed a job posting in the employee cafeteria that caught her eye. She spoke to Sandra about it over one of their lunch meetings.
“This Lab Manager I position is perfect for us. We have both had lab supervision experience in previous jobs and at Orion we’ve both had excellent performance records. It’s a major step up from what we are doing now. It would be an increase of about $16,000 a year – split in half it is a significant raise. I could use the money, couldn’t you?”
Sandra responded, “Of course I could. Childcare is so expensive. I had no idea how much of my pay-check would be going toward that. How do you think Mary would feel about our applying?”
“She’s always said that she’d support our careers. Now is the time to see if her words mean anything. I think she’ll be receptive,” Janice said.
“Who’s managing the Lab Manager position?” Sandra asked.
“The posting says that Elliot Southern will be. I think he’s OK. At least, I’ve never heard anything negative about him. He’s worked in labs forever and really knows his stuff.”
“OK, let’s talk to Mary tomorrow and see what she thinks,” Sandra offered.
The Discussion with Mary
Janice opened the conversation, “Hi, Mary. Thanks for taking the time to meet with us. Sandra and I want to talk to you about a position that we would like to apply for. It really would be a great job for both of us and a promotion.”
“We’ve talked it over and we think we would have no problem dealing with it. It fits both of our backgrounds very well,” Sandra added.
“Do you mean another job-share?” asked Mary.
“Yes,” they both said in unison.
“I’d be very sorry to have you go. Are you sure about this job? What is it?”
“It’s the Lab Manager I job, reporting to Elliot Southern.”
“Do you realize that you’d have to manage five lab scientists? That might be tough in a job-share situation,” Mary said skeptically.
“We have both managed before and we have similar management styles and ways of working,” Sandra said.
“Yes, but wouldn’t it be hard for the lab scientists to adjust to that?”
“The company already has dual reporting relationships – they just aren’t job-sharing ones. For example, there is a guy in information technology who reports to both the sales director and an IT senior manager.”
“Hmm . . . that’s true,” Mary conceded. “It’s just that I think you would have a hard time convincing Elliot Southern that it would be worth the trouble.”
“Would you talk to him? You’ve got Tyrone who could move into our job. He has been eager to move up and he is very competent.”
“I’m not really worried about finding a good replacement for the two of you, although I would be sorry to see you move on. I’ll try to talk to Elliot, but to be honest with you, I don’t think he will go for it.”
Mary’s Discussion with Elliot Southern
“Elliot, How are you? I haven’t seen you in ages. I guess we both have been buried in work. How’s the enzyme research going?
“Sit down, Mary. Nice to see you. No breakthroughs yet on the enzyme work, but we are hopeful.”
“Well, the reason I wanted to get together with you was to discuss Janice Newman and Sandra Price. They would like to apply for the Lab Manager I position that you have posted.”
“Well, sure they can both apply. They just need to get the exact job description from human resources and send along a resumé.”
“I mean they want to apply as one candidate. You know, a job-share. They do a job-share now and it’s worked out really very well,” Mary said.
“Well, maybe it works in a Lab Scientist role, but I’m not sure about a management job. I can’t see how they would manage together. Staff need one person to call the shots. It gets really confusing if direction comes from more than one place. People get mixed messages. I really need someone who can keep close tabs on what’s going on in the lab,” Elliot countered.
“How much experience do the lab scientists have?”
“Well, let’s see. About five or six years, I guess.”
“Don’t you think they are experienced enough to not require heavy supervision?”
“Well, there are other things the manager has to do besides manage staff. Set schedules, write up protocols, make sure that everything is running smoothly. It takes a detailed mind. I’d be worried that something would slip through the cracks.”
“I understand how you feel. I was concerned about taking Janice and Sandra on in one job, but they have done such a terrific job. I think I’ve gotten more good work out of them than I would have had from one person doing the job alone.”
“They have been so terrific that you are eager to get rid of them?” Elliot mused.
“Not at all. But I do think they have a right to move on if they see another opportunity.”
“I just don’t see how they would manage staff together. I am sure there are other opportunities for them in the company besides this one.”
“Elliot, they really want this job. They have managed people before and they are extremely well-organized. I have not had to worry about supervising their work. In fact, they have given me extra time that I might have had to spend on someone less competent.”
Mary could see that Elliot was beginning to straighten things up on his desk and he took a nuanced look at his watch. She took these as cues that he had other pressing things to do.
Mary stood up and said, “Think about it, Elliot. They really would be an asset.”
Mary’s Follow-Up Meeting with Janice and Sandra
“Well, I met with Elliot and as I anticipated he was a little resistant to the idea. I think his big worry is not that you aren’t competent, but that this would be a difficult position for the two of you to do together.”
“Why?” Sandra asked.
“Because he is concerned about how the lab would be managed with two people trying to guide five lab scientists. He said that he worried about things slipping through the cracks.”
“Has anything slipped through the cracks here?” Janice asked, slightly perturbed.
“No, you’ve both managed the arrangement very well.”
“I don’t see why we couldn’t manage the Lab Manager role just as well. We keep each other well-informed about everything and we’d do the same thing with staff. We could even hold staff meetings together so everyone would be clear that we share the same expectations.”
“That’s a good idea. If you apply for the job, you are going to have to convince Elliot that you would have systems in place to make it work. To my knowledge, we don’t have any managers in the company doing a job-share, so you would be breaking ground here,” Mary said.
“Look the company says it wants to help employees deal with work and family balance. Managers should be able to take advantage of the same policies that non-managers get,” Sandra said.
“Theoretically,” Mary offered. “It’s just that no one’s done it before.”
The three women continued discussing Mary’s meeting with Elliot. Mary offered to write a letter of recommendation to Elliot highlighting the women’s performance and job duties (see p. 220). Janice and Sandra decided they would formally apply for the job, knowing it would be an uphill battle.
Several weeks went by and Elliot announced that he had hired William Katz. In his announcement to the organization, he explained that Katz had many years of experience in laboratory work with not only Pharmacare, but other biotech companies. Privately, he told Mary that the job was too critical for him to consider a job-share situation.
270000 Industrial Park Drive
Director – Research and Development
I am writing to recommend Janice Newman and Sandra Price for the position of Lab Manager I. When I began to sit down to write this letter, I contemplated writing two separate recommendations – one for each of them, but I honestly see them as a unit. As you know, they have operated in a job-share situation in my department for the last two years.
As research scientists in my lab, they have carried out our efforts to discover drugs that prevent or mitigate the effects of auto-immune diseases. They have kept scrupulous lab notes and recorded all information; they both understand the latest technology; and they stay current with the latest scientific research. On occasion, they have come to me with recommendations for buying a piece of state-of-the-art equipment. Their recommendations have been solid and have improved lab operations. When I have had to be out of town for any reason, I have left them with the responsibility of managing the lab in my absence. They have never let me down.
Both Janice and Sandra are well-respected by their peers in part for their competence and in part for their common-sense approach. They have good instincts for managing people and they treat everyone with respect. They both have high standards not only for themselves but for others with whom they work.
I sincerely hope that you will consider them for this job opportunity. They are both exceptional employees.
Auto-immune Lab Manager
Appendix 9.3: Internal Position Application – Pharmacare
Lab Manager I
This position is responsible for the supervision of lab technicians, approximately 10 full-time employees. The position requires supervision of staff who will be running lab experiments, planning laboratory work, and producing lab reports and documentation specifically for private and governmental grant work. The person selected will have managed employees in a scientific setting (preferably a lab environment) and will have knowledge of:
• quality-control procedures in a lab setting.
• testing procedures and reports analyzing results, progress, and recommendations.
• laboratory equipment.
• how to design work schedules for lab staff.
Further, the individual will:
• understand and implement safety standards and will maintain sufficient inventory of materials and supplies for performance of duties.
• utilize various software programs in reporting lab experiments.
• provide advanced problem-solving, troubleshooting, and interpretation of experiment results.
• stay abreast of latest technical procedures.
• communicate in a professional manner with doctors, patients, and other medical personnel with whom Pharmacare may be interacting.
• supervise a variety of personnel functions, including interviewing, hiring, performance appraisal, promotions, and vacation schedules.
• be able to confidently make decisions relevant to all laboratory procedures and keep his or her manager informed about all activities and major decision taken in the lab.
Minimum requirements: staff supervision in a lab setting, plus a relevant undergraduate degree in the biosciences or chemistry.
1. Do you think Pharmacare’s policy should be more clear-cut or should managers be allowed to determine whether a job-share is appropriate?
2. In your opinion, should the job of Lab Manager I be a job-share? Why, or why not?
3. Could Janice and Sandra have handled their situation differently with Elliot Southern so as to convince him?
4. In your view, is there any role that Human Resources might have played in this case?
1. In a group of four people, role play a job interview between the two women and Elliott. One individual should observe the role play and offer feedback.
2. Read the article, “Two executives, one career,” by Cunningham and Murray in Harvard Business Review, Feb. 2005. Discuss the challenges (both personal and professional) that the two women had in their job-sharing situation.
3. Compare the labor laws in the European Union with those of the United States concerning part-time work. The following websites will be useful: www.eurofound.europa and the US Department of Labor’s website: www.dol.gov.
4. Interview your parents. Ask them how they balance (or balanced if they are no longer working) work with family demands. Find out if their employers provided flexible work arrangements, and if so, if they took advantage of them. If both parents work, ask them how they arrange to get non-work activities done.
Legal cases involving work–life balance center around job-sharing, part-time work, maternity leave, working from home, and work hours. In the US, employment law does not afford part-time workers all of the same protections as full-time workers. For example, they may or may not receive the same employment benefits that full-time workers enjoy. Moreover, employers are not obligated to consider requests to go from full-time to part-time employment. Part-time workers in the US are generally viewed as a flexible labor pool, hired when needed and let go when not required. The law surrounding part-time work in EU countries is stricter because of an EU Directive on Part-Time Work established in 1997. EU Directives require member states to comply, but give them a timetable for making changes to their laws and some flexibility in how they implement the law. In the UK the same hourly wage must be given to part-time and full-time workers who perform the same job, and accommodation of workers’ requests for part-time versus full-time work must be given full consideration. In the US, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (part of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act) guarantees a woman six weeks’ unpaid maternity leave, while Canadian law allows at least 15 weeks of paid leave provided by the National Health Insurance system. The maternity leave benefits in EU countries vary, but they are generally longer than in the US and offer some pay. Here are a few representative examples of legal cases in some of these environments.
Nashville Gas Co. v. Satty
Nashville Gas required Mrs. Satty, a customer clerk in the accounting department, to take a leave of absence for her pregnancy. After a seven-week absence from work, she sought re-employment with the company, but her former job had been eliminated due to cut-backs. Temporary employment was found for her at a lower salary than her former job. While in this temporary employment, she unsuccessfully applied for three permanent positions but each time was denied the job, which was given to another individual who had begun to work for Nashville Gas during her maternity leave. If she had been credited the seniority that she had accumulated before her leave, she would have been awarded the jobs for which she applied. While she was on leave, the company refused to pay her sick pay (as is paid for other medical disabilities) and she lost all of her accumulated job seniority. When she returned to work, her employer told her she would be employed in a permanent position only if no currently employed employee applied for the position. The District Court (and then the Supreme Court, on appeal) held that the policy of denying employees returning from pregnancy their accumulated seniority deprives them of employment opportunities and adversely affects their status as an employee because of their sex. There was no proof of any business necessity for the adoption of a seniority policy with respect to pregnancy leave. The policy of not awarding sick pay is not a violation of Title VII, per se, because as in a prior case, General Electric v. Gilbert, Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist argued:
As there is no proof that the package [disability pay] is in fact worth more to men than to women, it is impossible to find any gender-based discriminatory effect in this scheme simply because women disabled as a result of pregnancy do not receive benefits; that is to say, gender-based discrimination does not result simply because an employer’s disability-benefits plan is less than all-inclusive. For all that appears, pregnancy-related disabilities constitute an additional risk, unique to women, and the failure to compensate them for this risk does not destroy the presumed parity of the benefits, accruing to men and women alike, [434 US 136, 142] which results from the facially evenhanded inclusion of risks.
(429 US, at 138–139; footnote omitted)
In the GE case, the cost of the disability program for men was no greater than for women and therefore was not considered to be discriminatory.
BP Chemicals Ltd. v. Ms. Gillick and Roevin Management Services
In this UK case, Ms. Gillick had been supplied to BP from Roevin Management Services, an employment agency that had been contracted by BP to supply it with workers. Gillick received her pay from the employment agency, while BP paid a fee to the agency. Gillick had worked for BP for several years under this arrangement, until she left due to becoming pregnant. When BP refused to have her back in the same job after her absence, she filed a claim against them. An employment tribunal (ET) ruled that she could bring a discrimination complaint against BP and against Roevin. BP appealed that decision and lost. The Appeals Court said that the ET erred in deciding that Ms Gillick had a claim against BP as its employee. The ET had misconstrued the Sex Discrimination Act (SDA), which defines employment as “employment under a contract of service or of apprenticeship or a contract personally to execute any work or labour.” For the Act to apply, however, a contract had to exist between the employer and the worker, and there was no contract between BP and Ms. Gillick.
The Appeals Court did decide that Ms. Gillick’s claim could proceed under a different clause in the SDA, which makes it unlawful for an employer, who has a contract with another company to supply workers, to discriminate against those workers. This applied whether or not the individual was currently working. BP’s appeal was therefore dismissed. The case is important because it settles the question about whether the UK’s Sex Discrimination Act can be applied to agency workers and contractors, rather than employees of a company.
Given v. Scottish Power Plc
Mrs. Given worked for Scottish Power from June 1979 until May 1994 as a clerical worker and then as an “Implementation Team Member,” supervising 10–12 people. In March 1993, after discovering that she was pregnant, Given spoke to the Customer Service Manager about the possibility of a job-share because she knew that other team members had arranged them. The manager told her that this was impossible at her level. She asked her team leader if working from home, a career break, or part-time work were possible, but he also said no. After returning from her maternity leave, she raised the question of a job-share with the Personnel Officer, who told her she should consider downgrading herself to a team member, but even then he couldn’t guarantee that she would get on. After trying again with the company’s District General Manager, she was turned down. At that point, she resigned and took the issue of job-share to an industrial tribunal. The tribunal held that Mrs. Given was never told why the job was unsuitable for a job-share; her employers had not assessed the duties of her job or why they could not be fulfilled on a job-share basis. The tribunal was not satisfied that there were any meaningful “operational” difficulties with the proposed work arrangement and further said that the company’s policy on job-share appeared to apply to the entire workforce. The tribunal found indirect sex and marriage discrimination and awarded Mrs. Given £35,000 on the basis that she had taken another job for lower pay. In determining the amount of the award, the tribunal considered her length of service with Scottish Power, the manner in which she was treated, injury to feelings, and career damage.
UK employers can refuse a request for flexible working conditions under the following conditions: it adds costs; it prevents meeting customer-service demands; the company cannot reorganize work among staff; there would be a detrimental effect on quality or performance; there would be insufficient work for the hours proposed by the employee; or there had been planned structural changes that interfere with the proposed work schedule.