Sex Discrimination and Private Clubs

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 What Is Sexual Discrimination?

Sexual discrimination is an intentional or unintentional act that has the effect of excluding one sex to the opportunities or benefits of the other sex. In an employment setting, gender and sex discrimination refers to a situation in which one employee or a group of employees is treated differently or harassed by an employer due to their gender or sex.

This type of discriminatory behavior may result from various individuals in the workplace, including:

  • Supervisors;
  • Managers;
  • Human resources personnel; and
  • Other co-workers.

In general, the umbrella term for these forms of discrimination is employment discrimination. Employment discrimination is the wrongful or different treatment of an employee based on certain characteristics.

For example, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based on their membership in a protected class, for example, their:

  • Age;
  • Sex;
  • Religion;
  • Gender; or
  • Other traits.

In addition, it is illegal to treat one group of workers better or differently based on these characteristics.

What Are Examples of Gender and Sex Discrimination?

Sex and gender discrimination may include various types of mistreatment or conduct, which may include:

  • Deciding not to hire an individual based solely on their gender or sex;
  • Paying one employee less than another employee who performs the same type of work because of 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 particular gender;
  • Harassing an individual worker or a group of workers based on their gender or sex;
  • Firing or terminating an employee for reasons that depend on only their sex, and not on their performance or other factors; or
  • Treating one group of workers differently or better or than another group of workers based on their sex or gender.

This list is not exhaustive of the conduct that may qualify as gender and sex discrimination. Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) is an overreaching federal law that protects against these types of acts, the states may have definitions and requirements governing employment discrimination that vary depending on the state.

How Can a Person Sue a Private Club for Sexual Discrimination?

Typically, sexual discrimination lawsuits are brought under a federal or state anti-discrimination statute, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1963 or the Equal Pay Act. These types of lawsuits may either be initiated in an administrative law setting or directly in a judicial venue.

In order to prevail in a lawsuit against a private club for sexual discrimination, an individual is required to prove:

  • The applicable anti-discrimination provides that sex or gender is a protected category or class;
  • The private club restricted the individual’s access solely on the basis of their sex or gender;
  • They suffered some form of damages; and
  • The private club is not considered exempt from liability.

Which Employers Are Required to Follow Title VII?

Title VII does not apply to all employers. However, it does apply to:

  • Private employers with at least 15 employees;
  • Federal government;
  • State governments and their agencies;
  • Employment agencies; and
  • Labor organizations.

Title VII essentially applies to all employers or organizations that are large enough for federal interference. This does not mean that other employers are permitted to discrimination based on gender or sex.

The laws of the state may apply when federal laws do not. Therefore, if an individual’s employer is not subject to federal law, it is important to review the local laws.

What Can I Do if I Have Been a Victim of Sex Discrimination?

If an individual has been a victim of sex discrimination, they should take their concerns to the Human Resources (HR) department of their employer or use their employer’s provided internal process for resolving complaints.

If this process is not successful, the individual may file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). A worker is required to do this before they can file a lawsuit.

The EEOC has offices throughout the country. An individual can file a charge with the nearest local office or online.

There are timelines in which an individual is required to file their claim after the discrimination occurs. Therefore, if an individual believes they are the victim of sex discrimination, they should check on this issue as soon as possible.

If the EEOC determines there was no discrimination, the individual will be provided a Notice of Right to Sue and will be permitted to file a lawsuit in court. There are many states that also have separate agencies that handle charges of discrimination that an individual may file charges with as well.

Can I Win a Federal Sex Discrimination Case?

In order for an individual to prevail in a sex discrimination claim, they must show that sex was a substantial factor in the employer’s discriminatory actions. It does not need to be the only factor, just a substantial factor.

In addition, it does not matter if the employer and the employee they discriminated against are of the same sex. An employer may have several defenses that make it difficult to win a sex discrimination claim.

One example is the bona fide occupational qualification. This applies when an individual is not capable of doing a job because of their sex.

In these instances, Title VII does not prohibit seemingly discriminatory actions. For example, if a job requires a worker to be able to lift a certain amount of weight, it may preclude women from being good candidates for the job.

This type of requirement may be considered to be legitimate as a bona fide occupational qualification.

Are There Any Defenses?

If an individual sues a private club for sexual discrimination, multiple defenses may be available, including:

What Other Factors Will a Court Look At?

In some cases, it is not easy to anticipate if a lawsuit against a private club for sex discrimination will be successful because a court will examine a wide range of additional factors, including:

  • If the group took on an expressive association or official position in favor of sex discrimination;
  • When the private club took a position;
  • If the goals of the private club can be accomplished without discriminating based on sex;
  • If a new member was forced to be included, they would interrupt the ability of the private club ability to advocate their private viewpoints; or
  • If the private club seeks or receives money from non-members.

In addition, courts may consider the Equal Pay Act. Under this act, employers cannot pay male workers more than female workers for the same job, even at different locations.

Comparisons may be made between employees and workplaces within the same county.

What Can a Person Who Sues a Private Club for Sexual Discrimination Recover?

In general, an individual who successfully sues a private club for sexual discrimination may be eligible to recover some or all of the following:

  • Compensatory damages for physical and emotional pain and suffering;
  • Reasonable attorney’s fees and costs associated with the lawsuit; and
  • Punitive damages in some instances.

Do I Need an Attorney?

If you believe you have been discriminated against by a private club based on your sex or gender or if you are associated with a private club or you are associated with a private club that is being sued for sexual harassment, it is important to consult with a discrimination lawyer.

Your attorney can guide you through the process of filing a complaint or lawsuit. If you are being sued, your lawyer can defend you in court.

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