Maine Woman Sues Employer for ‘Family Responsibility’ Bias

July 16, 2007

A federal judge has ruled that a Maine woman who claims she was denied a promotion because she had 6-year-old triplets may proceed with a lawsuit against her employer.

Laurie Chadwick alleges that her supervisor told her she had “too much on her plate” when she was denied a team leader position at Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. Chadwick also had an 11-year-old child at the time.

Chadwick’s lawyer, David Webbert, said she was a victim of “family responsibility discrimination.”

The company disputes the circumstances, said Anthem spokesman Mark Ishkanian.

“As a company with 75 percent women (employees) and led by a woman president, we have a long record of hiring the best person for each job opening,” Ishkanian said. “In this case, it is significant that the successful candidate was a woman with dependent children.”

Chadwick filed her lawsuit in January.

“A motivating factor in the decision was the gender stereotype that, because she is a woman, Ms. Chadwick would allow her obligations to her children and her husband to adversely affect her work performance,” Webbert wrote.

Anthem filed an affidavit from the person who got the job, a woman and a mother with two teenage children.

The company’s “selection of another female employee for the promotion disproves (Chadwick’s) hypothesis that sex was the basis for the decision,” wrote the company’s lawyer, Katherine Rand.

Ruling earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge D. Brock Hornby said the relevant question was not whether one woman was hired over another, but whether Chadwick was treated the same way as a man with four children would have been.

“I conclude that the promotion of another woman does not foreclose the plaintiff’s ability to prove her case, and that the law entitles her to proceed with her case,” Hornby wrote.

A trial is scheduled for February 2008.


Information from: Portland Press Herald,

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