Gender Discrimination in the NBA: A Demonstration of a Larger Problem

Fitting into this election season’s discussion of women’s rights, the NBA is facing a three million dollar gender discrimination suit. Longtime NBA employee Brynn Cone is suing the National Basketball Association, Inc., NBA Entertainment, Inc., and NBA Properties, Inc., alleging she was underpaid, under-promoted, and ultimately forced out of the organization because of her gender, pregnancy, and role as a mother. Management changed Ms. Cohn’s department’s hours, requiring that employees work from noon to 8 pm two days a week. When Ms. Cohn and other female employees with children asked for exceptions, management refused, even though they granted exceptions for other male and female employees without children. When Ms. Cohn expressed concern over her ability to care for her child, the Director of her department gave her a choice: be a mother or work at the NBA. Management routinely expressed hostility toward mothers and children, with one Director asking why mothers could not make the same child care arrangements she made for her dogs. After Ms. Cohn and two other mothers resigned because of the hardship the new policy created, the new required hours were abandoned.

The Complaint alleges the NBA violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, among others. Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating based on gender in the workplace, including intentional discriminatory policies and policies that while neutral on their face, exclude individuals on the basis of gender. Pregnancy and child rearing are protected under Title VII.

This is just the latest in a line of stories outlining the difficulties women face in the workplace. While the federal government has proposed and passed legislation to combat gender discrimination in the workplace, discrimination based on sex still exists in many major businesses in the United States. It ultimately is the responsibility of employers to ensure their employees are treated equally; however, history has shown repeatedly that many private companies are slow to act on combating gender inequality in their business. Strong legislation is needed to compel these companies to act responsibly and end gender discrimination in the workplace.