Though much of the recent focus has been on instances of sexual harassment and wage gap discrimination in tech, another area that is prone to sex discrimination is the area of promotion. Many women may have their careers derailed or even halted completely when tech employers consistently and unfairly overlook women for promotions.
Federal Law and Promotion Discrimination
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act governs certain forms of discrimination in the workplace for companies nationwide with 15 or more employees. Title VII prohibitions against workplace discrimination include provisions against sex discrimination in employment decisions. This means promotion decisions based on biased decision-making, including quid pro quo sexual harassment and other forms of sex discrimination, can violate this important civil rights law.
According to the EEOC, the federal agency which enforces Title VII and other workplace discrimination laws, it’s illegal to base job assignments and promotions on a person’s sex. This means that an employer must withhold biased stereotypes and assumptions about gender when deciding whether workers are eligible for promotions and job tasks or assignments.
Women in Tech: Filing a Charge of Promotion Discrimination
In the tech world, many women unfortunately experience the already normalized stereotypes about female participation in science and technology-related fields. The current assertion is that this prevailing attitude has created a culture of unfairness throughout the tech industry that often expresses itself in the form of male-dominated employment decisions.
Women who feel their rights to a fair promotion have been violated can turn to Title VII to assert violations. If their company employs 15 or more workers, women in tech can file a charge with the federal EEOC office alleging violations against their employer under federal law.
The charge must show that the employer used illegal assumptions about the worker’s sex as a basis for the decision not to grant a promotion in order for the charge to be acceptable for further review and ultimately a chance in court.
Filing a Federal Charge of Promotion Discrimination
It must be noted that there are a few details to consider when attempting to file a charge of promotion discrimination at the federal level. For instance, a worker has 180 calendar days from the date of the last alleged incident of discrimination to file a charge with the EEOC under federal laws. This is an important deadline that applies even if you have already filed a grievance within your company.
In addition, it’s important to know that filing a discrimination charge with the EEOC may or may not result in the agency taking on your case. After the EEOC receives your initial charge, it will be reviewed to determine whether it meets legal requirements. During the review, the EEOC may conduct an investigation, gathering information from you and from your employer about the specifics of your allegations.
In the event that the EEOC decides to take your case to court, you will receive representation from the agency throughout your case. However, if the EEOC decides not to take the case on, you will still have the option to pursue the case in court with your own legal representation. The EEOC will issue a Notice-of-Right-to-Sue, which is required in order for you to continue working with your own workplace discrimination attorney to pursue the case further.
Asserting Tech Promotion Discrimination at the State Level
In addition to filing a federal promotion discrimination charge, women workers also have the option to file a charge at the state level. Most states have their own EEO offices that assist workers who file discrimination claims under state laws.
State laws on workplace discrimination vary from state to state. For instance, in California, workers have a right to sue under discrimination laws if they work for a company with as few as five workers. In other states, coverage limits are higher or lower. It’s important to carefully research this important point before filing a charge at the state level.
Deadline requirements for filing a state promotion discrimination charge are also different at the state level. Most states require that charges must be filed no later than 180 calendar days after the last instance of discrimination. However, if the state charge is concurrent with a federal charge on the same basis, this deadline is extended to 300 calendar days.
If you opt for a state law charge only, you may still have extended deadlines to your advantage at the state level. For instance, in California, claimants have the right to file a claim up to one year after the last incident of discrimination, and this deadline can be extended up to 90 calendar days in certain circumstances.
Women in Tech: Promotion Discrimination Remedies
When considering whether to hold your employer accountable for violations of promotion discrimination laws, another important point to consider is the type of legal remedies available. Employees are entitled to both compensatory and punitive damages in most instances. It’s important to think about the type of remedies available at both the state and federal level.
Keep in mind compensatory damages can include recouping losses for emotional harm such as mental anguish or loss of enjoyment of life. These remedies can also cover out-of-pocket expenses.
Additionally, federal discrimination laws like Title VII often include certain caveats when it comes to remedies for discrimination claims. For instance, Title VII requires certain caps or limits on damage award amounts associated with violations based on the size of the company involved.
Legal Right to Fair Promotion in the Tech Industry
As more information concerning unfairness and biased discrimination against women in the tech industry continues to surface, it’s important for women to understand their rights. Being repeatedly excluded from promotion simply on the basis of sex is a violation of both federal and most state laws governing employment discrimination. If you think your rights have been violated, take timely action and notify a qualified employment discrimination attorney as soon as possible.