Gender Discrimination in the Workplace
California’s employment laws want employers to consider women as equal to men. Unfortunately, glass ceilings and male bias predominate the workforce. The law is broken when a woman is fired or demoted due to her gender. But workplace gender discrimination is far more complicated that that. This page covers the following topics:
- Effects of gender discrimination in the workplace
- What is the definition of gender discrimination?
- Laws governing gender discrimination in the workplace
- Sex and Gender Discrimination Examples
- Resolving issues of gender discrimination in the workplace
Effects of Discrimination
When an employee becomes the victim of gender discrimination, she will likely experience one or more of the following:
- Decrease in productivity
- Tension between the victim and the company
- Isolation from the rest of the team
- Low self-esteem
- Fear, frustration or anger
Being discriminated against because of your gender is extremely unfair. No one should be put through such hostility. The law is written for equal treatment, equal pay, and equal opportunity.
What is the Definition?
Gender discrimination can take various forms in the workplace – and the law applies to both men and women (although women are the predominate victim). Generally, gender discrimination is when a corporation treats an employee differently because the individual is a man or a woman.
The terms gender and sex tend to be used interchangeably, but there is a notable difference. “Sex” refers to the individual’s biological identity, being male or female. “Gender” refers to the overall characteristics that society views as masculine or feminine and what the individual identifies as, regardless of what he/she is labeled as on the birth certificate. No matter what the discrimination is based on, sex and gender discrimination is illegal in the workplace.
Laws Governing Gender Discrimination in the Workplace
Feeling discriminated against is different than illegal discrimination. The federal and state laws below protect several classes from discrimination, including gender.
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act
The Fair Employment and Housing Act is a state law that applies to both private and public employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies. It prohibits employers (who have 5 or more employees) from discriminating against employees, as well as job applicants. Individuals who are protected are: employees, job applicants, unpaid interns, volunteers, or contractors. The full statute can be found in California Government Code § 12940. This is the most powerful anti-discrimination law in CA. It is more powerful than Title VII (the federal law – see below).
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer … to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” — Title VII, Civil Rights Act of 1964.
This federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against several protected classes, including gender. Typically, this law applies to employers who have 15 of more employees. It applies to federal, state, local governments, private & public colleges & universities, employment agencies, and labor organization. Employers are forbidden from gender discrimination in these aspects:
- Transfers, promotions, layoffs, or recalls
- Advertising for a job (i.e. accepting only male applicants)
- Testing (i.e providing different tests for male and female)
- Fringe benefits
- Pay, disability leave, retirement plan offerings
- Training and apprenticeship programs
- Any other terms and conditions of employment that is discriminating of the individual’s gender
Equal Pay Act of 1963
This is a federal law that expands on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Unlike Title VII that protects all employment discrimination, the Equal Pay Act only protects against wage discrimination.
Sex and Gender Discrimination Examples
Gender discrimination can be aggressive or subtle, not all discriminating actions are obvious in the workplace. Below are some gender discrimination examples:
- Hiring, firing, or promoting someone because of their gender
- Not hiring, firing, or promoting someone because of their gender
- A female works her way up to management finds out that a newly hired male manager (same position and duties) is getting paid more than she is despite equal qualifications
- A female employee gets a pay cut because she can’t put in as much overtime after just having had a baby, while a male employee cuts back on overtime for personal reasons with no changes to his pay
- Female employees don’t get to add their husbands to their health insurance because it is assumed that the husband has his own healthcare benefits, while male employees can add their wives
- Withholding job opportunities from individuals who identify as transsexual or homosexual [Gay Law Students Assn. v. Pacific Tel, & Tel. Co.].
These gender discrimination examples are not conclusive of all the possible discrimination scenarios in a workplace.
The Glass Ceiling Still Exists for Many Women
Common acts of sex discrimination in the workplace is seen in women’s employment opportunities. This limitation on women’s employment is referred to as a “glass ceiling”. This sex discrimination against women come in these forms:
- Refusing to promote a fully qualified employee because she is a woman
- Paying a male employee with exact same abilities as a female employee more because he is a man
- Disparate treatment when it comes to socio-business relations, like men going golfing with clients
- “Laying off” female employees because they are pregnant or planning on getting pregnant
These cases of discrimination are not easy to prove in court, as there will rarely be hard evidence of gender discrimination. Most cases are won or lost on circumstantial evidence that overwhelms the employer’s denials.
Resolving Issues of Gender Discrimination in the Workplace
When gender discrimination in the workplace happens, there are legal steps that you can take to ensure that it stops and you are compensated for the suffering that you endured. Below are steps that
- Politely, complain to HR or management of the employer in writing. If the employer doesn’t do anything to resolve it, you may move forward making a gender discrimination claim with a government agency.
- If adverse actions were taken against you (fired, demoted, or they refused to hire you), contact a private employment law firm like the Bohm Law Group, and get a consultation.
- Assuming you’ve spoken with a lawyer, file an administrative charge with the DFEH and acquire a right-to-sue letter. This process is called administrative exhaustion. Generally, your lawyer will do this for you.
- If the case is not resolved early on, your lawyer will file your lawsuit.
That is why it is important that you speak with a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of gender discrimination and sex discrimination laws.
Statute of Limitations to File an Administrative Charge
A statute of limitation is a set period of time that allows someone to take legal action, usually filing a charge with a government agency. With gender discrimination, the California state DFEH agency allows 1 full year from the day of the last act of discrimination. But you should never wait that long to contact a lawyer. Call our office as soon after the discrimination took place as possible.
If you are experiencing gender discrimination or sex discrimination, talk to an employment lawyer as soon as possible. Make sure that you do before the statute of limitations is up. We can help you file an administrative charge with the right agency and collect the right evidence to prove your claim in court.