Sex discrimination is not an easy issue to address in the workplace. Despite its prevalence, many women are reluctant to come forward and may even be intimidated by employers or pressured by co-workers to keep silent.
Yet, all employees have rights under both federal and state law meant to address workplace sex discrimination. In this post, we’ll take a look at five types of sex discrimination you should know now in order to protect yourself, and your career, from discriminatory behavior.
Quid Pro Quo
Quid pro quo sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination made well known by such iconic cases as Anita Hill v. Clarence Thomas and the recent $20 million settlement in Gretchen Carlsen’s case against Fox News. It occurs when an employer conditions terms of employment requiring employees to perform sexual favors.
Quid pro quo sex harassment can take on the form of a simple request for dating in exchange for a promotion or get even more egregious, with requests for sexual acts in the workplace as a requirement for continued employment.
It does not take an all out offer from an employer for sex acts to qualify as quid pro quo sex discrimination. Even if the employer only hints that a promotion, pay increase or similar advantage will be given to an employee if he or she engages in a sexual act or submits to requests for sexual favors, this can be considered quid pro quo sexual harassment in a court of law.
Sexual Harassment & Hostile Environment
Quid pro quo sexual harassment is just one form of sex discrimination. Beyond that, sexual harassment is a broad category of sex discrimination involving a number of unlawful actions from an employer.
Courts examine sexual harassment claims based on the circumstances of each case. The typical analysis is based on whether or not the advances an employee has experienced are unwelcome and severe. In other words, mere teasing or unpleasant chatter may not be enough to successfully litigate a case for sexual harassment. Courts consider whether the actions in question were enough to create a hostile environment – one that would make it unreasonably difficult for an employee to carry out his or her job.
When an employer’s behavior are both unwelcome and egregious, they can get an employer into trouble. An employer is responsible for putting a stop to sexual harassment it knows, or reasonably should have known, of and when an employer fails to put a stop to it, it could be held liable for creating a hostile environment for employees. Supervisor managers and others in positions of sufficient authority and control over an employee can make the entire company vicariously liable for such acts.
Same Sex Sex Discrimination
We commonly think of cases of sex discrimination involving women employees launching allegations against male supervisors or managers, but that is not always the case. An employee of any sex can experience sex discrimination, and this form of discrimination can also occur between individuals of the same sex as well.
Sex discrimination claims are not limited to supervisors and managers either. Most federal law claims can be filed against co-workers or even clients of an employee’s company. The employer has a duty to ensure that the work environment remains free of hostility in instances where it knows or reasonably should have known of the discrimination or harassment.
Sexual orientation sex discrimination
Until recently, sexual orientation discrimination had largely been left untouched in terms of federal law prohibitions. There is still no federal law prohibiting nationwide employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation. However, the EEOC has recently announced that it views sexual orientation discrimination as sex discrimination as it it outlined in the 1964 Civil rights Act.
This means that, even in the absence of federal law, any case that the EEOC chooses to take to court on behalf of an employee alleging work discrimination based on their sexual orientation could be successfully tried under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Prior to the change, states led the way in terms of protecting LGBT employees from discrimination in the workplace. California, in particular, has had its laws regarding sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace in place since 1992, with protections against gender identity discrimination in place since 2004.
Gender-based sex discrimination
Nearly all aspects of employment are protected from sex discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act as well as through state laws across the nation. It is unlawful for an employer to base employment decisions, including in hiring, firing, termination, promotion and others, on the employee’s gender or sex.
One of the most prominent forms of gender based discrimination occurs against women who are consistently paid less than men in the U.S. workplace. The gender pay gap has been widely discussed as a persistent form of sex discrimination hitting Black and Latino women the hardest among the American working population.
Remedies for Sex discrimination
When legal limits on sex discrimination are crossed, employees have a right to seek remedies, starting with their state or federal EEOC office.
Most employees want to know the outcome or result, once the sex discrimination claim is filed, will yield favorable results. Will the employer be forced to re-hire someone it has fired illegally? Can a discriminated employee expect monetary relief in the form of back pay?
In many cases, the answer to both these questions is yes. Reinstatement, back, pay, return of lost wages and more are all ways that employees can recover damages for the sex discrimination he or she has suffered.
What to Do When You Experience Sex Discrimination
The first step to take in any sex discrimination case is to contact your attorney. Doing so as early on in the process – even before speaking with co-workers or HR personnel – can be a definite asset in getting a favorable outcome.
An attorney can also help guide you through the EEOC charge filing process. This process has a number of deadlines and details that only a skilled employment rights attorney can help navigate, taking advantage of state laws or even local law remedies that may be available.