Gender discrimination in the workplace continues to be a major problem in the workplace despite the passing of time since laws such as Title VII or the Equal Pay Act were enacted to combat the issue. Sexual or gender discrimination at work occurs whenever an individual is treated differently on account of their gender and may affect anything from hiring decisions to promotions. Relatedly, sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination similarly prohibited by federal law and the subject covered in detail within FindLaw's Sexual Harassment section. Below you will find information on gender discrimination, including an overview of gender discrimination laws, some frequently asked questions, and examples of illegal interview questions.
Sex/Gender Discrimination: Overview
Women have proven themselves equally capable of accomplishment in employment, athletics, academics, and politics, but discrimination against women has a long history and discrimination against women remains a troublesome aspect of our society. Despite legislative and social efforts to achieve equality women continue to earn lower salaries and have fewer opportunities than are available to male counterparts. Sexual discrimination takes many different forms but always amount to unequal treatment on the basis of sex. Pay disparity, discriminatory job standards, failure to promote, and differences in working conditions are all common forms of sexual discrimination.
One unique aspect of sexual discrimination is sexual harassment. Both men and women have a right to be secure and perform their jobs free of unwanted demands for romantic or sexual relationships, unwanted communication, or sexual behaviors that interfere with their ability to work. Sexual harassment includes the harassment of lower-tier employees by a manager or executive of a lower position and sexual harassment among coworkers. It is illegal for employers to make sexual conduct a term or condition of employment, to base employment decisions on such conduct, or permit sexual conduct that unreasonably interferes with an employee's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. As such, lewd comments, unwanted touching, or displays of sexual depictions constitute sexual harassment where they interfere with an individual's work performance.
What to Expect: An EEOC Cause of Action Chronology
When an employer is responsible for discrimination one possible course of action is to file a "charge" with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is the federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. The organization conducts investigations into reported discrimination, mediates disputes, and settles complaints. The organization can file civil discrimination suits against employers on the behalf of their employees and rule on claims of discrimination brought against federal agencies. A typical EEOC action proceeds as follows:
- Your employer discriminates against you in the terms or conditions of your employment for an unlawful reason.
- You file a "charge" at the nearest EEOC office within 180 days of the discriminatory incident.
- The EEOC notifies your employer of the charge within 10 days of your filing.
- The EEOC begins an investigation to determine whether there is "cause" to support your allegation of discrimination.
- The EEOC makes a finding of "cause."
If the EEOC finds "no cause" you can request a review of the determination within 14 days of the decision. If the EEOC affirms the "no cause" finding they will issue a "right to sue" letter. If it determines there is "cause" they will start conciliation.
- A process called "conciliation" begins, intended to resolve the dispute between you and your employer without going to court.
- You and your employer reach a settlement as a result of conciliation.
The conciliation process fails, at which time the EEOC will issue a "right to sue" letter or file a lawsuit on your behalf. If they issue a letter you must file your lawsuit within 90 days of receipt of the letter.