Gender Discrimination in the Workplace

In California, federal and state gender discrimination laws protect workers from discrimination on the basis of these traits:

  • Biological Sex: Female, male, intersex, other.
  • Gender Identity: Woman, man, transgender, genderfluid, other.
  • Gender Expression: Gendered styles of dress, speech, etc.

Generally speaking, these legal protections address the two most prominent forms of gender-based discrimination: discrimination against women, and discrimination against sexual minorities. However, men are protected too. That’s the good thing about the laws being as broad as they are: Nobody gets left out.

No matter who you are, if your employer (or prospective employer) discriminates against you on the basis of sex or gender, that is a violation of your rights. When this happens, you should consult with a gender discrimination lawyer to better understand your situation.

Gender Discrimination Can Be Very Subtle

While some forms of gender discrimination are obvious, such as a female employee being subjected to disparaging remarks about women by a colleague or supervisor, oftentimes the discrimination is very subtle. For instance, if you’re female and you get passed over for a promotion that you feel you are strongly qualified for in favor of a male colleague, how can you tell whether this decision was based on merit or was the result of discrimination? Another very common situation is gender pay discrimination. (See our Gender Pay Discrimination page for more information.) Since most companies keep salary information private, how can you tell if discrimination is occurring?

The answer is that often you can’t tell. You need a discrimination lawyer to help you figure things out, interpret the situation, and discuss your rights and options.

Federal Gender Discrimination Laws

The main federal law that addresses sex discrimination is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

Two other federal laws address sex discrimination: the Equal Pay Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The Equal Pay Act ensures that employers do not pay women different wages or salaries than other employees. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act protects pregnant workers.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Your First Step

All three of those laws are enforced by a federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

If you have been discriminated against on the basis of sex (but not necessarily gender identity or gender expression), the first step in making an official complaint based on these laws is to file a charge with the EEOC.

The EEOC then investigates the claims, and has significant enforcement powers of its own if it determines that a violation occurred.

If the EEOC decides not to pursue an employee’s case, it issues a “right to sue” notice which gives the employee permission to file a sex discrimination lawsuit in court. From that point on you will definitely need to hire a discrimination lawyer to proceed with your case.

State Gender Discrimination Laws & Regulations

Federal law is fairly poor on protections for sexual minorities, and there are gaps in its protections for women as well. For this reason, California state law adds deeper protections for sexual discrimination, and establishes gender identity and gender expression protections for sexual minorities.

The main state law that concerns discrimination in the workplace is the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Additionally, the California Fair Employment and Housing Council (FEHC) has issued regulations broadening the scope of this law. Together, they provide the following gender discrimination protections:

  • An expanded definition of “gender identity.”
  • Protections for transitioning employees.
  • A right for employees to be addressed by their preferred gender pronouns.
  • A prohibition against requiring that employees provide documentation of their gender.
  • Restrictions on gendered job duties or dress codes.

Sexual Harassment & Assault

Sexual harassment consists of unwanted sexual advances, sexualized language or behavior, or requests for sexual favors. This is illegal in California, including in the workplace.

Sexual assault is the infliction of sexual violence on an individual. It is absolutely illegal, and is covered by additional laws.

Please see our Sexual Harassment page for more information on these subjects.

Let Shegerian & Associates Help You Understand Your Rights

When it comes to the law, there’s a lot to understand about gender discrimination. It can be difficult, intimidating, and damaging to your career to try and pursue resolution on your own. You need qualified legal representation.

At Shegerian & Associates, our discrimination lawyers have many years of experience standing up for the rights of our clients. Contact us today to discuss your rights and learn your options. The consultation is free. In fact, all of our services are free unless we win a cash verdict or settlement in your favor.

Don’t settle for being the victim of discrimination. Let Shegerian & Associates help you get a resolution.