In an employment setting, gender and sex discrimination may involve situations where an employee or group of employees is treated differently based on their sex or gender. The discrimination can come from various persons, including supervisors, managers, human resources personnel, and even other co-workers. 

Generally speaking, employment discrimination involves wrongful or different treatment of an employee based on certain characteristics. It is generally illegal to discriminate based on an employee’s age, sex, religion, political affiliation, gender, and other characteristics. It is also illegal to treat one group of workers differently or better based on such characteristics.

What are Some Examples of Gender and Sex Discrimination?

Gender and sex discrimination can involve various forms of conduct and mistreatment. These can include:

  • Deciding not to hire someone based solely on their sex or gender;
  • Paying an employee less than others who perform the same type of work due to their sex or gender;
  • Denying an employee a raise, access to benefits, or a promotion because they are a certain race or identify with a certain gender;
  • Harassing a person or group of workers based on their gender or sex;
  • Firing or termination of an employee based only on their sex, and not on performance or other factors; and
  • Treating one group of workers better or differently than another group of workers based on sex or gender.

Various other types of conduct can be considered gender and sex discrimination. These may depend on state laws, which may have different definitions and guidelines for employment discrimination in general. 

Who is Protected from Gender and Sex Discrimination?

States and the federal government have various laws that prohibit governmental and private organizations from discriminating against people because of their sex or gender. Employers are prohibited from discriminating or harassing individuals on the basis of sex. This is regulated under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1963 (Title VII), state laws, and the Equal Pay Act, which applies to: 

  • All government and federal employees;
  • All employees working for employers with 15 or more employees; and
  • Both women and men.

What is the “Equal Pay for Equal Work Act”?

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is a law that requires employers to pay employees doing the same job equally regardless of their sex. To support a claim under the Equal Pay Act, the employee must show that a woman and man:

  • Work in the same place;
  • Do the same job; and
  • Are not being paid equally

If an employer can demonstrate a legitimate basis for the pay difference, then it might be difficult to establish a claim for gender or sex discrimination.

Do Gender and Sex Discrimination Laws Cover Harassment? 

Harassment in an employment setting includes unwanted sexual advances, sexual conduct or other verbal or physical action of a sexual nature. An employer may be responsible for harassment if co-workers or supervisors maintain a work environment that is overly sexual or offensive to workers. 

An employer, co-worker or supervisor also cannot harass an employee because they do not conform to the typical male or female stereotype. An employer is also required to keep the employment environment free from sexual harassment and other issues. An employer may be held liable even when a supervisor or co-worker is the harasser, depending on the exact circumstances.

Other employment conduct prohibited by gender and sex discrimination laws include:

  • Retaliation: An employer generally cannot take adverse or negative employment actions against you because you filed a gender or sex discrimination claim, or openly opposed a discriminatory policy. 
    • For instance, they cannot fire an employee who has filed a discrimination claim, even if the claim turns out to be false or untrue under state laws. Every employee has the right to file their claim.
  • Employment Advertisements: An employer cannot limit a job opportunity to one sex (for instance, in a job listing) without a legitimate business purpose.
  • Other: As mentioned, employment activities such as hiring and firing cannot be based on gender and sex.

What if I Need to File a Gender and Sex Discrimination Claim?

If you believe that you have experienced discrimination, you may need to file a workplace discrimination claim with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). The EEOC handles and processes discrimination claims. When a complaint is filed with them, they will investigate the matter to determine if a violation has occurred. If so, they will then also prescribe the appropriate remedy.

For instance, the EEOC may require an employer to re-hire a person who was wrongfully terminated on the basis of their gender or sex. Or, they might require the employer to adjust their work behavior policies.

If the remedy provided by the EEOC is not sufficient to remedy the violation, the employee may be allowed to file a lawsuit against the employer. However, the employee usually needs to file with the EEOC first before they can file such a lawsuit.

Do I Need an Attorney for help with Gender and Sex Discrimination Claims?

A gender and sex discrimination claim against an employer is generally difficult to pursue without an discrimination lawyer. This is because of the specifics necessary to prove the intent to discriminate. 

Additionally, many states and the federal government have certain procedures an employee must follow to file a gender or sex discrimination claim; these can be quite confusing without an attorney. Hiring an experienced lawyer is also essential to any employer who is being sued for gender or sex discrimination.