Is Firing a Female Employee Over a Topless "Selfie" an Act of Sex Discrimination?

Sex and gender discrimination in the workplace can take many forms. There is, of course, sexual harassment, and there are cases in which a woman may be denied a promotion in favor of a less-qualified male colleague.

Teacher Blamed for Students' Invasion of her Privacy

Then there are situations in which sex discrimination reflects a more deeply ingrained set of double standards regarding what is acceptable behavior for men versus women. For example, a Long Island teacher recently made national headlines when she was fired from her job after students obtained and circulated a topless “selfie” of her. The teacher claims the school district's rash decision amounts to gender discrimination, as no man would be fired for a similar topless photo.

According to a report from the New York Times, the 25-year-old teacher taught math at Bellport Middle School in Bellport, a small village on the south shore of Suffolk County on Long Island. The teacher said she was called into a “meeting with mostly men” one day, where “a school administrator turned a computer monitor around to show a topless selfie of [her] that she said she had sent only to a fellow teacher whom she had dated.”

The school immediately placed the teacher on “administrative leave” and she was ultimately fired by the South Country Central School District, which oversees Bellport Middle School. Although school officials would not comment on the firing to the Times, the teacher said the South Country superintendent of schools told her she was “no longer a proper role model for students.” In a written letter, the superintendent blamed the teacher for “allowing” the “inappropriate photo to be distributed to students.”

In response, the teacher said she had no idea how the students got a hold of the topless picture in the first place. Prior to her termination, she received the “highest possible rating in nearly every category” on her performance evaluations. Indeed, the Times noted the teacher was on track to receive tenure before this incident.

An employment lawyer hired by the teacher told the Times his client was the victim of sex discrimination. More precisely, he noted that his client had done nothing wrong. “This is a woman who just takes a photo–a selfie of herself and nothing else. And from that, they manage to say that she's done something dirty.”

The teacher said she planned to file a lawsuit seeking reinstatement to her teaching position and $3 million in damages.

Speak with a New York Gender Discrimination Lawyer Today

Whatever the outcome of such a lawsuit, this story definitely raises some important questions regarding the double standards faced by women in the workplace every day. If you have been fired or treated unfairly by your boss on the basis of sex or gender, you need to speak with a qualified New York employment attorney who can advise you of your rights. Contact the Nisar Law Group, P.C., today to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team.

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