Gender or sex discrimination in the workplace refers to treating an individual unfavorably or unfairly because of his or her sex, whether it is a current employee or a job applicant. Although women have experienced a long history of gender inequality, men can also experience sex discrimination. Gender inequality can take many forms, such as unfair job standards, unequal pay, or lack of promotions, and it is prohibited in the place of business.
Gender Discrimination and Work Situations
Federal and state laws forbid discrimination in the workplace for men and women. This includes any and all aspects of employment and the employment process:
- Hiring or not hiring based off the sex of the applicant
- Firing employees due to their gender
- Pay- higher or lower salaries for the same position/experience
- Job assignments
- Job classification
- Promotions and raises
- Fringe benefits
- Working conditions
- Bonus criteria
The treatment towards one gender compared to the other must not only be different, but also unequal. For example, providing separate restrooms or locker rooms for men and women is not considered discrimination, but making them work in different working conditions is.
Who Is Covered by the Law
The sex discrimination federal law falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This law covers local and state governments, educational institutions, and private employers that employ 15 or more individuals. Other types of associations that are covered by the law are labor organizations, public and private employment agencies, and joint labor management committees. There are many states that have also made it illegal to discriminate based on gender.
Difference Between Sexual Harassment and Sex Discrimination
Both sex discrimination and sexual harassment fall under Title VII, and sexual harassment is considered to be a form of illegal sex discrimination. Although sex discrimination deals with inequality in different aspects of a job, sexual harassment refers to misconduct of a sexual nature that interferes with work performance or creates a hostile work environment. Here are just a few examples of sexual harassment:
- Unwanted touching
- Vulgar comments
- Displays of sexual photographs or drawings
- Requests for sexual favors
- Offensive comments about women or men in general
- Unwelcome sexual advances
Remedies Available for Victims
If someone believes they have experienced sex discrimination, most companies have procedures in place to report this. Sometimes legal actions need to be taken in order for a victim’s rights to be upheld. The federal agency that is responsible for investigating discrimination charges is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and often, states also have their own agencies to enforce specific state laws. In the cases where violations of gender discrimination have occurred, the victim is allowed to recover what has been lost or made unavailable to him or her:
- Getting hired
- Back pay
- Front pay
- Punitive damages (damages that punish the employer)
- Compensatory damages (damages for emotional pain and suffering)
- Other actions that return the individual to the condition she or he would have been if it hadn’t been for the discrimination
- Court costs
- Attorneys’ fees
- Expert witness fees
If employers have been charged with a violation of sex discrimination or sexual harassment, they may be required to put up notices addressing these violations and advising employees of their right to be free of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. Employers may also need to take preventive or corrective actions in regards to the discrimination source and reduce the chance it will happen again.
As an employer, it is important to know and understand all aspects of the law that prohibits sex discrimination. This includes equal pay for equal work, the glass ceiling phenomenon, and parental status and/or marital status discrimination. The repercussions for violating this can be huge, and not only monetarily. Your company brand and culture can be greatly improved by maintaining employee morale and loyalty.
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