Gender-based discrimination is still quite prevalent in today’s workplace. Rigid gender norms still dictate, to some extent, how women and minorities like transgendered individuals are treated at work. This can result in unlawful sex discrimination prohibited under federal law and, in many cases, under state law as well.
That’s why it’s more important than ever for employees to know their rights in the face of gender-based discrimination and to become familiar with the remedies available to them should they decide to take legal action. Without the help of the law, many workers would face insurmountable limitations at work. That’s where knowing your rights can make a huge difference.
What is Gender-Based Discrimination?
Gender-based discrimination is often described in term’s of women’s rights. All over the world, women are limited by gender norms that say they are not capable of enjoying equal access or equal rights in public life. Even in the U.S., women are still far rank behind men in certain employment measures. For instance, women are less likely to occupy executive positions and are less likely than men to be promoted in Fortune 500 companies.
However, gender-based discrimination in today’s workplace can go beyond women’s rights. Today, men, too, can experience discrimination based on gender or gender identity. The EEOC has recognized that the Title VII prohibitions against sex discrimination in the Civil Rights Act extend to protect men and transgender individuals as well as discrimination involving sexual orientation, and the same rules apply in situations of workplace harassment and retaliation.
Title VII and Gender-Based Discrimination
Title VII ensures that employees are entitled to a workplace free of gender-based discrimination, harassment and retaliation. This applies to all levels of the employment process including hiring, firing and compensation.
Title VII covers employers with 15 or more employees, but state law can also add additional protections. For example, in California, the sex discrimination provisions in the main employment discrimination law protect both men and women from workplace discrimination harassment and retaliation, but the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity have also been added.
This means that homosexual employees and transgender employees specifically have a right to work free of discrimination in California.
Sexual Harassment And Retaliation Based on Gender
Generally, two forms of sex discrimination find their way to courts. These are quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment sexual harassment. Both these offenses carry a number of rights and remedies guaranteed in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment is perhaps the most well-known type of sexual harassment. This takes place when an employer makes sex or unwelcome sexual advances a condition of employment. An employer could refuse an employee her promotion unless she consents to sexual acts or an employer might require performance of a sexual act in order for an employee to receive a pay raise.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment is a violation of federal law and most states have laws in place as well. Both men and women can be victims of sexual harassment, as is demonstrated in recent EEOC cases or the sexual harassment could be between two workers of the same sex as well.
The other type of sexual harassment is hostile workplace sexual harassment. This type of harassment developed as a legal claim when courts began to officially recognize that sexual harassment sometimes involved more than conditions placed on employment. It may also involve unwelcome sexual advances that are so severe and pervasive, it would cause a reasonable person to be prevented from properly fulfilling job duties.
When this is the case, an employee is entitled to have her employer put an end to the harassment. Of course, the employer must know that the harassment is occurring, but an employer could also be held liable for sex discrimination if the company should have known about the harassment. In other words, even if no formal complaints have been made but circumstances indicate that the employer should have been aware of the harassment, the company could still be held liable.
With both types of harassment, an employer can be held liable for the actions of a supervisor, manager, or a co-worker of the complaining employee. Also, the employer is prohibited from retaliating against an employee for filing a complaint or charge of sexual harassment.
In fact, the anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII involve important rights in the face of gender-based discrimination. Not only are employees protected against retaliatory action once they file a complaint or charge of sex discrimination, they are also protected if they are involved in discrimination court procedures or hearings.
Gender-based Discrimination Against Transgender Employees
The civil rights of homosexual couples and other members of the LGBT community have expanded by leaps and bounds over the past two decades. In the area of employment rights, headway is still being made in the effort to equalize conditions at work for employees who experience discrimination based on gender identity.
At the federal level, a proposed law, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), would serve as nationwide protection for LGBT workers. Its provisions also include gender based discrimination protection for transgender individuals. Currently, ENDA is set to be reviewed by the House of Representatives, but many doubt that the law will pass due to the conservative views of Republicans in that branch of Congress.
Still, states have recognized the need for gender-based discrimination protection for transgender employees by updating and amending current state laws. California is one example already noted, but so are several other states which either have already enacted laws or who have proposed laws for review.
When protection is in place, transgender workers have the right to work free of discrimination based on their gender identity. This means that a transgender individual cannot be treated differently from other employees in terms of hiring, firing and compensation as well as any other area of the employment process. Most gender identity laws also afford protection from harassment at work as well as protection from retaliation.
Knowing Your Rights in the Face of Gender-based Discrimination
These areas of protection only brush the surface of a slew of rights that employees can expect based on gender at work. Whether it’s protection from sexual harassment or the right to breastfeed at work, the law provides a number of prohibitions against discrimination based on traits surrounding sex and gender. If you think your rights have been violated based on your gender, contact a competent attorney as soon as possible to get the advice you need to move forward with your case.