The U.S. Tennis Association is the national governing body for tennis matches across the country. A part of this responsibility is to assign referees to officiate matches. Like many businesses and groups, the USTA has an official written policy that directly prohibits discrimination based on a referee’s gender.
While that may be the written stance, a female referee said that in actuality there is a “clandestine policy of discriminating against female Umpires and Referees.” She made this claim in a complaint for wrongful termination after she complained to the local office that in her experience men were given preferential treatment in high-ranked matches.
The woman specifically worked under purview of the Pacific Northwest Section of the USTA. According to the complaint, it was not just that less qualified male referees were assigned to the more competitive matches. Female referees were also chastised for minor infractions while similarly situation males had their infractions ignored.
A specific instance of this disparate treatment mentioned in the complaint involved an infraction for being late. A domestic violence incident forced the female referee to show up for a match past the scheduled arrival time. While her late arrival did not cause delay in the start time for any match, she was berated for her tardiness. In contrast, she said that males often appeared late without consequence.
At one point, the supervisor in charge of making the assignments even “blatantly admitted” that on several occasions, he had intentionally selected males over females.
Gender discrimination does not have to be written into policy to become the basis of an employment claim for compensation. Even disparate impact or a repetitive pattern of discriminatory actions can act as evidence in a lawsuit in New Jersey.
Source: Courthouse News Service, “Gender Bias, Set, Match in Tennis Officiating,” Elizabeth Warmerdam, Sept. 17, 2013