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Wedow v. Kansas City, Missouri


Wedow v. Kansas City (8th Cir. Mar. 24, 2006) is a Title VII gender-based discrimination alleging unfair treatment based on sex and retaliation (Bennett, 2012). Anne Wedow and Kathleen Kline filed a second employment discrimination action against the City of Kansas Fire Department. They had already filed another case against the same Fire Department before, which culminated in their promotion to the rank of battalion chief. In this particular lawsuit, these two women were complaining about the fact that the fire fighting clothing which they had been provided with was meant for males and did not, therefore, suit their purpose. What made their complaint even more serious is the fact that protective clothing made for women was actually available. However, the fire department was reluctant to provide them with it. Moreover, they complained about the bathroom and shower facilities for females at the fire station.

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The retaliation claims were premised on the fact that they were not provided with an opportunity to work in shifts as it was designed (Dipboye & Colella, 2005). The designation offered the designee an opportunity to monitor a specific subject matter that arose during the shift. Even though these shifts guaranteed no extra pay to the firefighters, they offered on-the-job experience which was a prerequisite for their career development. Viewed from that direction, therefore, this was a form of discrimination at least in the eyes of both Wedow and Kline. Additionally, Kline claimed that she had been denied the right to out-of-class consultations, which essentially means assuming duties of a higher-ranking official in an opportunity that prepares one for similar assignments in the future. Normally, firefighters were to be provided with two sets of clothing, which comprised personalized protective clothing referred to as bunker gear consisting of pants, a coat, a helmet, a tool belt, as well as a self-contained helmet. It was necessary to have two sets so that if there was an injury or the clothing got spoiled in the course of undertaking their duties, one would have a replacement since it was risky re-using spoiled clothing. These circumstances compelled Anne Wedow and Kathleen Kline to file a suit against the City of Kansas, the result of which was the now-famous Wedow v. Kansas City Case. In light of the case study, this coursework will offer answers to the questions provided below.

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Are you Surprised that This is a 2006 Case? Why or Why not?

My answer to this question is yes. It is worthwhile noting that both Wedow and Kline had been victims of such discrimination from as far back as 1993 (Bennett, 2012), yet they opted to wait for so long before they could file a suit. Another interesting twist to this particular case is that an almost similar case was filed by the same complainants in 1997, but it is inexplicable why they decided to file their complaints in a piecemeal fashion.

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On appeal, the juries in fact held that the plaintiff's discrimination claims were barred by res judicata because they were either brought or ought to have been brought in the first lawsuit. In the first case, the complainants sought to bring forth evidence of a hostile work environment but were claiming disparate treatment in the second.

How do you think the Fire Department should have Responded when the Women Registered Complaints about their Uniforms? Explain?

In my opinion, the fire department was not justified to deny the complainants their rights. Indeed, it should have responded swiftly to the demands of these two women. It is worthwhile noting that the fire department had been fully aware of these women's predicament from as early as 1993, which is attested to by the fact that it submitted early budgets, not to mention that the city allocated money to upgrade the locker room. Needless to mention, Title VII criminalized discrimination based on sex regarding terms, privileges, and conditions of employment.

Why do you think the Fire Department Treated the Female Employees as it did?

From where I stand, several factors can sufficiently explain why the fire department treated its female employees the way it did. In this case, however, highlighting one of the factors will suffice. Quite obviously, the people who called the shots in this department were male-chauvinists or, to put it differently, they did not regard women as equal to male employees. Clearly, it was the policy of the fire department to provide all employees with protective clothing, but what did it do instead? It provided its male employees with clothing that befitted them with little regard to their female counterparts. The fact that the clothing tailored for women was well within reach did not help either.

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Recommendations and Conclusions

Gender-based discrimination in the workplace has become commonplace. It behooves policymakers to see to it that policies that guide operations in the workplace do not gender-discriminatory (DeLaat, 2007). When assessing employment policies or practices for gender discrimination, it is important to ascertain whether it is obviously so. A policy should be properly scrutinized to ensure that it does not exclude members of a specific gender from the workplace or certain workplace privileges. As it has been sufficiently demonstrated by the above case, employers may involve themselves in blatant gender discrimination yet claim to be unaware of their policy's unsavory legal repercussions, even in highly regarded workplaces such as a fire department.

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