I am a female employee. A few weeks ago, I got sick with common cold and cough. I used up all my sick days, but did not get better. I worked from home since my constant coughing, sneezing and blowing my nose was disturbing my colleagues, and they kept saying I should go home.

My manager was unhappy with me working from home, and kept hounding me to either come back to work or use my vacation days. I found out from HR that the company does allow more than 5 sick days, but my manager would not allow it. He asked for a doctor's note to prove that I was sick. Eventually, I did not get additional sick days, and had to come back to work.

A few days later, a male colleague fell sick. He had already used 4 sick days before, and then he used 4 more sick days. He was not asked to get the doctor's note, and he was not asked to use his vacation days.

Can I complain to HR about this gender bias? If I do complain, what kind of backlash should I expect from the manager? What can I do about that backlash?

  • 4
    Understand that you may not know what he was asked to do or provide as this sort of thing is private data and should not be available to you. Complaining to HR is likely to harm you more than anyone else. – HLGEM Apr 19 '18 at 16:44
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    How do you know the male colleague was not asked all of this? Did you talk to him? Also, where are you located? – David K Apr 19 '18 at 16:45
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    How do you know that the male colleague wasn't asked for the doctor's note or to use up vacation days? Even if he told you directly, you have to be very careful about disclosing things that you are not "supposed" to know. – Masked Man Apr 19 '18 at 17:11
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    What on Earth this has to do with gender? How do you know?! If it was another girl with red or blonde or black hair?! Hair color bias? I think attitude and past history are more relevant for your manager than gender. Honestly. – Adriano Repetti Apr 19 '18 at 17:37
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    Sorry if I'm direct but this kind of accusations are blatantly ridiculous. Gender, race and sexual orientation discriminations exist. Unfortunately. However this kind of behavior is insulting and negative for whom is working against it. – Adriano Repetti Apr 19 '18 at 17:46

When complaining to HR, don't complain about gender bias.

Instead, ask them about the policy for sick leave.

  • If your boss didn't act in accordance with the policy, ask HR and/or boss to explain why they didn't stick to the policy
  • If your male colleague's sick leave wasn't according to the policy you can try to bring it up, although you should be extremely careful here. If you say too much you may be seen as envious or uncooperative. It doesn't matter whether people would be right to treat you as such - but they may.
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    This is an excellent point - if it happened to another woman, OP would still be upset. – corsiKa Apr 19 '18 at 17:05
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    +1 Right now you have two data points, so you can't really know if this is a problem for women, or just for you. If you go to HR, ask about clarifying the policy without bringing up genders. – David K Apr 19 '18 at 17:10
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    It may also be something to do with the nature of the illness. People tend to think no one should have to take more than a day or so for a cold. If the man had something else, he might have gotten less pressure from the boss for that reason. – HLGEM Apr 19 '18 at 18:03
  • The second point here is super important... basically, mind your own business, since you don't know what kind of agreements/arrangements other people have with the business. – Maybe_Factor Apr 20 '18 at 2:17

Can I complain to HR about gender bias?


And if I do complain then what kind of backlash should I expect from my manager and what can I do about that backlash.

It is impossible to know because this is both workplace-specific and case-specific.

But in general, just remember that

  • HR serves the interests of the company.
  • It is neither a neutral nor a just arbiter.
  • It exists to manage human resources, and, to some extent, keep the company in compliance of any applicable laws and regulations (i.e. prevent the company from getting sued).
  • 2
    I think the first two bullet points are incredibly relevant here, but at the same time, it's in the company's interests to not get sued or get bad reviews on sites like GlassDoor - both of those can seriously hurt the company's reputation and ultimately their financials. But you're right that you can't count on HR to care about you as a human, only as a resource who happens to be human – corsiKa Apr 19 '18 at 17:04

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