It is a sad but unfortunate truth that discrimination and prejudice still exists today, whether in public, at home, or even in the workplace. However, federal and state laws protect people from gender discrimination in the workplace.
When Does Gender Discrimination in the Workplace Occur?
Gender discrimination in the workplace, or sex-based discrimination, involves conduct wherein an applicant or an involves conduct wherein an applicant or an employee is treated unfavorably by an employer, based on the gender of the applicant. This is different from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, including transgender status. In the case of determining discrimination, “transgender status” is used as an umbrella term covering any person who does not conform to stereotypical gender identity or stereotypical gender expression. The law is still developing in this type of discrimination. However, current trends suggest more state and federal courts will find gender identity is a form of discrimination covered by federal law.
Types of Employers Bound to Follow the Laws Regarding Gender Discrimination in the Workplace
The laws apply to both state and local governments, and their employees. It also covers educational institutions that employ 15 or more people. Private employers are also bound by the laws regarding gender discrimination in the workplace.
Areas in the Workplace Covered by Gender Discrimination
The law is designed to protect employees from discrimination in any and all aspects of employment. This can include but is not limited to the following areas of employment:
- Overtime pay
- Profit sharing
- Stock options
- Job assignments
- Cleaning allowance
- Reimbursement for expenses
- Fringe benefits
- Any other term or condition of continued employment
Examples of Gender Discrimination in the Workplace
Gender discrimination could look like this:
- In a discussion about who should get the promotion: “Susan and Bob are qualified for the promotion, but Susan has more practical, hands on experience. That said, I think we should give the promotion to Bob. Bob has a wife and kids to support. Susan is a single woman. She doesn’t need the money as badly.”
- In an explanation for why a project didn’t succeed as well as anticipated: “Well, I suppose that’s what we get for putting a woman in charge of the project. Women just aren’t as assertive as men. Bob, we’ll make sure to put you in charge next time! Susan, you can still help, of course.”
- In determining who to layoff due to budget cuts: “We have to lay off ten people. Let’s lay off men before we lay off women. Statistically, women have a harder time finding a new job. The good old boys’ network is alive and well. Men won’t have as much difficulty replacing their income with a new job.”
Sometimes, gender discrimination is more subtle. For example, where the men in the workplace are referred to as “men” and the women are referred to as “girls” or “honey,” “sweetie” or “baby.”
Sexual Harassment as Gender Discrimination in the Workplace
Harassment based on gender can include sexual harassment. Sexual harassment may include:
- Verbal harassment of a sexual nature, such as commenting on a person’s presumed sexual prowess, or indicating she or he’d like to participate in sexual acts with you
- Requests or demands for sexual favors
- Physical advances, such as brushing up next to someone or touching someone’s breasts or genitals
Who Can Be the Discriminator and Who Can Be the Discriminated
Both men and women can commit gender discrimination. Both men and women can be victims of gender discrimination in the workplace. Additionally, the victim and the harasser can be of the same sex. The law looks at the conduct, statements and decisions being made, not on the gender of the harasser or the victim. A harasser can be your supervisor, someone higher up in the company than your supervisor, or a supervisor from another area of the company. It can also be your co-worker, a contractor, a customer, or a client of the employer.
What Is Not Gender Discrimination in the Workplace
Gender discrimination laws do not prohibit good-natured teasing, minor, isolated incidents, or offhand comments. Rather, it requires frequent or severe incidents. These incidents create an offensive work environment or a hostile work environment. Adverse hiring decisions, including passing you over for promotions, demotions, or firings based upon your gender, can also rise to the level of gender discrimination.
A Non-Inclusive List of Things Your Employer Cannot Rely Upon to Treat You Differently From Others
Employers are not allowed to treat employees differently based on any of the following, including any combination of the following:
- Pay women less than men
- Pay men less than women
- Pregnancy status
- Marital status
- Whether you have children
- Whether you need to care for a family member
Types of Recoveries Available to Victims of Gender Discrimination in the Workplace
You may recover some or all of the following:
- Back pay
- Payment for pain and suffering
- Punitive damages to punish an employer, if the situation merits this
- Other actions that can make an individual whole
Expenses such as attorneys’ fees, fees for expert witnesses, and court costs may also be recoverable.
If you believe you have been a victim of sex discrimination or gender discrimination in the workplace, you should speak to a qualified gender or sex discrimination employment law attorney about the facts and circumstances of your case. Every case is different, and each case is very fact specific. It is important that the facts of your case be carefully reviewed to determine if the conduct you are experiencing rises to the level of gender discrimination or sex discrimination. Contact the lawyers at Schwartz Law, P.C., at (888) 7300-0529.