In the modern workplace, most female professionals are not braced for sexist discrimination. We all learn from a young age that this sort of thing is “over” and went out of style by the 70s or 80s at the latest. A modern boss wouldn’t dream of patting his secretary on the bottom or asking a female report to show a little more skin. And to a certain extent, this is true. However, gender discrimination does still exist and, unfortunately, thousands of women every year have put up with undercutting comments and disrespect from their coworkers and bosses.

But you don’t have to. Today, we’re here to shine a light on eight of the subtle but unpleasantly common signs of workplace discrimination against female employees. Before you start to think “Maybe I’m being too sensitive…”, check your workplace to determine if there really is an ongoing pattern of discrimination. And if there is, you can do something about it to make the workplace better for both yourself and every other woman who works for our employer.

All Personal Assistants are Female

Some employers are still working with 50s-era ideas of labor division. This goes above and beyond the usual gender leanings for one job or another. Personal assistants may traditionally be perky female secretaries, but modern ratios have many talented men in these roles as well. However, if your employer only hires ‘pretty’ women in assistant and admin roles, this is an early red flag not to be ignored. It may mean they have other gender expectations that will come out of the woodwork over time.

Female Professionals are Treated like Assistants

Another evolution of the ‘all female’ assistant pool is the idea that any female in any department is ‘better suited’ to assistant tasks than their male coworkers. If the woman on a team is always being asked to get the coffee, plan the parties, or clean up after meetings, this is a clear sign of systemic discrimination. Women’s work is a concept that should long since have disappeared from modern workplaces, but the specter still haunts some employers.

Shoulder Massages for Ladies Only

Unwanted touching is one of the biggest red flags in the business world when it comes to gendered discriminations. Some people, especially managers who think they can get away with it, will try to mask their desire to touch female employees with friendly ‘shoulder massages‘ and other unasked for physical contact. While some workplaces trade massages regularly between coworkers, it’s time to call HR and perhaps a lawyer if only the women seem to be the focus of this physical attention.

Higher Dress Code Expectations for Women

If you were asked to “wear something pretty” by your boss, you would immediately know that discrimination was in the cards. However, some employers mask their appearance discrimination between male and female employees in the dress code itself. Or in the unspoken dress code expectations. If men are allowed to dress ‘business casual’ or wear the same suit every day but women are expected to dress up more or act as pieces of office decoration, beware! This is a clear sign of institutional gender discrimination.

Regular Comments on Appearance

Along the same lines, a manager or entire company may show their true discriminatory colors when comments on a woman’s appearance are a regular and accepted part of office culture. It’s one thing if your boss says “Oh, that’s a great blouse, I’ve never seen it before” once. It’s another if your boss and coworkers are allowed to constantly comment on how attractive you look, or if your appearance comes up when your performance should be the topic of discussion.

Comments on Women’s Choice of Lunches

Here’s one you may not have heard of, or realized that it’s a form of gender discrimination: Commenting on lunch and nutrition. Some workplaces are simply focused on healthy eating as part of their employee wellness program. But if only the ladies are subject to examination of their nutritional lunch choices (Ex: “Are you sure you should be eating that burger? It can’t be good for your weight/skin”) then this is a form of gender discrimination enforcing the idea that women should try to be ‘slim and pretty’ at all times.

Questions about Marriage and Children

Another known form of gender discrimination is the assumption that women are more likely to neglect their work in favor of raising a family or that every unmarried woman is angling for a husband. If you choose to share and discuss family life with coworkers, fine. But if the topic comes unbidden from a male boss or colleagues as to when you’re getting married, if you plan to have kids, if you’re taking time off for family then this may be a subtle sign of unequal expectations from male and female employees.

Being Asked to Smile More

Finally, one of the most subtle yet surprisingly prominent signs of workplace gender discrimination is the expectation to smile. Either A) You are in customer service and every employee must smile at customers or B) you should be allowed to frown and scowl at your own computer all day long. The fact of the matter is that men never ask other men to ‘smile more’. So if your boss or coworkers comment about smiling, what they are really saying is that you should look prettier in the workplace, even when focusing on your work without any customers present.

Aiman-Smith & Marcy is proud to defend the rights of employees in the face of discrimination and unfair treatment no matter what form it comes in. For more information about how to defend your rights, contact us today!

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986