The tech world, and the discrimination taking place there, has recently taken center stage in the media, but how can tech employees protect themselves? How does the law protect workers in the tech world from employment discrimination and what can employees do when their rights are violated?

Federal and State Law Protection for Women in Tech

The tech industry, like every other industry, is subject to federal and state laws concerning the rights of employees. Federal laws covering employment discrimination generally apply to companies with 15 or more employees, but state laws can offer even broader coverage. Most state employment discrimination laws cover companies and businesses with as few as five employees.

The most prevalent antidiscrimination law for all forms of employment is the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is the most important part of the Act for American workers concerned about specific types of discrimination including discrimination based on sex, race, national origin, religion, age, and disability. These are known as the protected categories.

Harassment is also considered a valid claim under the Civil Rights Act when it accompanies protected category discrimination. For example, sexual harassment occurs when employers practice sex discrimination by harassing employees specifically based on their sex.

Both federal and state laws aimed at  protecting workers from discrimination generally applies to all forms of employment including hiring, termination, compensation, promotion, and benefits.

Federal and state law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace.

One of today’s hottest issues in the tech world is sex discrimination in the form of sexual harassment. Title VII and state discrimination laws across the country govern this pressing issue.

Women in tech should be aware that sexual harassment suits must meet certain requirements in order to be successful. A valid claim of sexual harassment must show there is a hostile workplace environment from severe, pervasive, as well as unwelcome, actions and behavior from an employer. The behavior must also be based on the sex of the employee.

Employees could also make a case for sexual harassment based on quid pro quo sexual harassment. This involves showing that an employer made certain employment decisions, like hiring, firing or promotion, dependent on sexual favors from an employee.

The law gives women the right to sue based on discrimination in promotion, compensation, or benefits.

The tech world is notorious for its “glass ceiling” culture. Women are typically absent from C-level positions in the tech industry and when they do work their way to executive roles, many find gender discrimination to be the norm.

However, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sex in almost every area of employment, including promotion, compensation and benefits.

State law, too, often using Title VII as a model, can prohibit sex discrimination in these areas. For instance, California law makes it clear that women employees can fight promotion, compensation and benefits discrimination, offering the chance to sue up to one year after the initial incident and allowing women workers to recoup losses without damage caps or limits on attorney’s fees.

The law protects women working in the the wage gap.

Another huge issue in tech industry is the issue of the gender gap. This refers to the sometimes enormous differences in pay between men and women workers. In the tech industry, it’s a line of demarcation that is both pervasive and difficult to circumvent due to the overall culture of discrimination.

However, the gender gap is also a difference that can be against certain employment discrimination laws. Women who find that men are consistently being paid more can sue under Title VII which protects workers from sex discrimination in compensation, or under the Equal Pay Act which specifically address the gender wage gap between men and women in the workplace.

Also, states have laws similar to the federal Equal Pay Act. California’s Equal Pay Act provides that women should be paid the same as men for “substantially similar” work, meaning work that is similar when viewed as “a composite of skill, effort and responsibility.”

The law protects women who are pregnant from discrimination.

If women who are not pregnant seem to have to it hard in the tech industry, it’s possible to say that women who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy could possibly have it harder. Yet again, the law protects pregnant workers from discrimination and even helps to ensure that employers provide them with workplace accommodations when necessary.

Federal laws governing the rights of pregnant workers include the Title VII, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is actually an amendment to Title VII. This law establishes that pregnant workers are entitled to work free of discrimination and should have access to reasonable accommodation upon request.

The Americans with Disabilities Act also protects pregnant workers. Commonly, the ADA protects women from being discriminated against based on a pregnancy in instances where employers seek to limit hours or even terminate women for fear of liability costs due to pregnancy or because they do not wish to properly accommodate a worker’s pregnancy.

The law protects women and other workers from retaliation that comes as the result of discrimination.

As can be expected, when workers decide to push forward with discrimination claims in the tech world, sometimes employers choose to retaliate. This retaliation can come in the form of exclusion, demotion, even termination. Fortunately, the law provides protection from discrimination-related retaliation in several instances however.

If a worker experiences retaliation as a result of filing an EEOC charge against her employer or due to participation in discrimination proceedings or because she has filed a discrimination complaint in court, she could be entitled to relief.  Both state and federal sex discrimination laws provide remedies for this type of retaliation, protecting workers from the backlash that often results from stepping forward about sex discrimination.

Legal Justice for Women in the Tech World

Both federal and state laws allow women in the tech world to enforce justice where their rights have been violated. When sex discrimination takes on the form of sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, wage inequality or retaliation, women workers can turn to laws designed to ensure that American workplaces remain free of pervasive, sexist inequalities.