woman ref

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Another sports blunder creates another blogging opportunity.

In the 3rd quarter of the Los Angeles Clippers/Cleveland Cavaliers NBA game last Thursday night, the Clippers’ All-Star guard, Chris Paul, received a technical foul after he questioned a rookie referee.

The referee happened to be a female, Lauren Holtkamp.

Do you see where this is headed?

In a post-game interview, Chris Paul voiced his frustration:

I think we have to show better composure, but at the same time, some of [the technical fouls] were ridiculous . . . The tech that I get right there was ridiculous. I don’t care what nobody says. I don’t care what she says. That’s terrible. There’s no way that can be a tech. We try to get the ball out fast every time down the court, and when we did that, she said ‘Uh-uh.’ I said, ‘Why, uh-uh?’ And she gave me a tech. That’s ridiculous. If that’s the case, then this might not be for her.

Those last 6 words –“this might not be for her” – have sparked considerable debate on tv and radio sports shows. What did Chris Paul mean? Was he suggesting that women referees have no place in the NBA?

The NBA has fined Chris Paul $25,000. Was he fined for making a remark that could be construed as sexist, for publicly criticizing a referee, or for a combination of both.

I won’t venture a guess as what Chris Paul intended. I do know, however, that several radio talk-show callers were not afraid to voice their sexist view that women referees have no place in men’s sports. I heard those remarks with my own ears. Even well-known sports radio host Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo strongly suggested on Friday afternoon that he would have a problem with women referees in the NFL because they may get hurt.

While Chris Paul’s comment has received considerable attention in the sports world over the last few days, stereotypes — whether based upon gender, age, disability, race or any other protected class — present obstacles in the workplace every day. Most employers strive to create a level playing field, free of stereotypes, through training and the implementation of policies. Keep in mind, however, that training and policies may not get you to the goal line. Workforce diversification at all levels is vitally important. If, for example, employees do not see women moving-up the corporate ladder, then you, like Chris Paul, may be sending a message (inadvertently) that women are not cut-out for certain jobs.

Title VII does recognize a “bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOQ) defense to intentional religious, sex, and national origin discrimination, and the ADEA recognizes a similar defense for age discrimination. That means that intentional discrimination is permitted in VERY LIMITED CIRCUMSTANCES where one’s religion, sex, national origin, or age is reasonably necessary to the essence of business operations (think, for example, a theatrical performance casting for a lead male role). Do not rely on the BFOQ defense in making personnel decisions without consulting with your attorney.