What Do You Do when The Complaint Is that Someone Is a Feminist? Lynch Law Firm, Workplace Investigation, Austin, Texas
What do you do if your client hires you to investigate someone who tells you, "Oh, she's just a feminist."? From an investigative standpoint, I don't know what that means. The academic concept of feminism is that everybody be treated equal regardless of your gender; however, people do not use the word that way. We have a concept of the angry feminist, and this gets to the way we use a lot of colloquial speech. People use speech in ways that are not academically or strictly accurate. So "feminism" has this academic meaning, but if somebody really means it to be an angry female or someone who is aggressively or angrily promoting female rights in the workplace they may use the same word. As the investigator, That's what you've got to figure out.
So if somebody is saying that an employee is "just a feminist," are they asking you to investigate that somebody thinks everybody should be treated fairly and equally?
That is exactly what Title VII calls upon employers to do. If somebody is aggressively or angrily promoting that, it can get real nuanced real quick, because it could be that they are so inclined to have equality in the workplace that it's turning them sour, and you've got to separate the environmental "turning them sour" part of your investigation from the "is everybody being treated equally."
So is the person who's an angry feminist being treated equally? Is she getting promotion opportunities and good work assignments equal to everybody else? And is the fact that she has become sour a result of being treated poorly or did she just arrive on the scene angry, and she's a sourpuss and she's creating a hostile work environment? As the investigator, you have to discover the root cause of the behavior and determine if the root cause was created in the work environment.
You have got to engage in some nuanced conversations with people that engage with your accused feminist on different levels to determine what's actually going on. But as far as your client calling you and saying, "She's just a feminist," well, good. We all should be. We should all expect genders to be treated equally in the workplace. "What do you mean by that?" is the first question you need to be asking.