Sex discrimination is not a straightforward issue to address in the workplace.
Despite being a widespread problem, with 27,291 alleged cases between 2018 and 2021, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) posits that much more go unreported. Victims may be reluctant to come forward and approach a sexual discrimination lawyer , especially when employers and co-workers pressure them to keep silent or face retaliation.
However, it’s crucial to realize that employees have rights under federal and state laws protecting them from all forms of sex discrimination. In this article, we’ll explore five types of sex discrimination in the workplace to help you protect yourself and your career from abusive superiors and colleagues.
What is Sex Discrimination?
Sex discrimination involves mistreating someone based on sex, including sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy. While several states prohibit any form of prejudice, especially discrimination on the basis of sex, the federal level isn’t as strict in specific contexts.
For example, California had laws protecting workers from gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination for decades, along with other states, including New Hampshire, New York, and Wisconsin. However, the three other states have no statewide protections for LGBT employees. In turn, they may be subject to discrimination with impunity.
Since EEOC began supporting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prevent sex-based discrimination in almost every area of employment—including hiring, termination, and compensation—more cases have reached courts. As such, this law has become a powerful tool for employees who have experienced discrimination based on sex.
What are the 5 Types of Sex Discrimination?
Becoming familiar with different types of sex discrimination can help identify if you experience it. Let’s discuss the common types of sex discrimination in the workplace.
1. Quid pro quo
Quid pro quo is a form of sex discrimination and harassment when an employer conditions employment terms requiring employees to perform sexual favors. It may take the form of a simple invitation for a date in exchange for a promotion or can be more egregious, with requests for sexual acts as a requirement for continued employment.
The law doesn’t need a direct offer for sex acts to qualify as quid pro quo sex discrimination. Even if the employer hints at a promotion, pay increase, or similar advantage in exchange for a sexual act or other related favors, the court of law may consider it quid pro quo harassment.
2. Sexual harassment and a hostile environment
Quid pro quo is just one of the many forms of sexual harassment, which courts examine based on each case’s circumstances. The typical analysis of sexual harassment cases revolves around whether the advances an employee experiences are unwelcome and severe. In other words, teasing or unpleasant chatter may not be enough.
Courts consider whether the actions in question were enough to create a hostile environment that would make it unreasonably difficult for an employee to do their job. Moreover, the employer is responsible for stopping sexual harassment they reasonably should’ve known. Otherwise, they could be held liable for creating a hostile environment for employees.
Take the EEOC’s $60,000 sexual harassment lawsuit against the Armed Forces Services Corporation (AFSC). A male worker in AFSC subjected a female co-worker to sexual harassment in 2018. When AFSC learned about the harassment, they failed to take appropriate actions to address it and even retaliated against the victim when she reported the incident to higher-ups.
3. Same-sex sex discrimination
We often think of sex discrimination as offenses between men and women employees and superiors, but that’s not always the case. Employees of any sex may experience sex discrimination, even between individuals of the same sex, as in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc.
Sex discrimination claims are not limited to supervisors and managers either. Employees may file federal law claims against co-workers of the same rank or the company’s clients. Ultimately, the employer must provide a work environment free of hostility in instances when they reasonably should’ve known of discrimination or harassment.
4. Sexual orientation sex discrimination
Until recently, sexual orientation discrimination has largely been untouched regarding federal law prohibitions. However, the EEOC has recently announced that it views sexual orientation discrimination as a form of sex discrimination, as 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 the court on behalf of an employee alleging work discrimination based on sexual orientation would be successful. However, some laws may impact this effort. An excellent example is the bathroom bill phenomenon nearly a decade ago, which denied transgender people access to public toilets.
While the EEOC determines that transgender employees should have equal access to restrooms according to their gender identity under Title VII, some religion-based laws protect employers who implement their policies and avoid those interfering with their freedom of religion.
5. Gender-based sex discrimination
The 1964 Civil Rights Act and multiple state laws across the country protect nearly all aspects of employment from sex discrimination. It’s unlawful for an employer to base employment decisions—including hiring, termination, promotion, and others—on the employee’s gender or sex.
One of the most prominent forms of gender-based discrimination happens against women who consistently receive lower pay than men. For example, women in the tech industry receive a salary that’s 1.8% lower than men in the same job title and company. It’s an instance of gender-based sex discrimination, which victims can report under Title VII.
The Equal Pay Act (EPA), which prohibits sex-based wage discrimination, is also an excellent protection against gender wage gaps. Legal action under these laws may lead to the recovery of back pay, lost wages, future earnings, overtime pay, bonuses, and recovery of emotional distress damages.
What are the Remedies for Sex Discrimination?
Employees who become victims of sex discrimination acts have the right to seek damages, starting with their state or federal EEOC office.
If you want to know your claim’s outcomes, such as how much you can win from sex discrimination lawsuits, rest assured that courts could force your employer to reinstate you after illegal termination and provide monetary relief. It may include back pay, return of lost wages, repayment of attorney’s fees, and more.
The court of law could also require your employers to undergo special training and be subject to hefty fines and penalties for their actions or inaction toward your harassment experience.
What to Do When You Experience Sex Discrimination?
The first step in any discrimination case is to contact your lawyer. An attorney skilled in sex discrimination law can help you navigate the EEOC charge filing process and leverage available state and local law remedies. Acquiring legal assistance early in the process, even before speaking with co-workers or HR personnel about the conflict, is a step towards a favorable outcome.
Are you a victim of sex discrimination? Shegerian & Associates‘ employment law attorneys are prepared to seek justice on your behalf. Contact us today by calling 1-800-GOT-FIRED.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Sex Discrimination
Do you have questions about sex discrimination? Let’s discuss a few of them to help you understand them better.
1. What’s the definition of sex discrimination?
Sex discrimination is treating someone unfavorably due to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects employees from this form of discrimination, along with other state and local legislation.
2. Are men protected from sex discrimination?
Yes, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects employees of all sexes from sex discrimination in the workplace. Unfortunately, social stigma often discourages men from reporting their experiences.
3. When did Congress outlaw sex discrimination in the Civil Rights Act?
Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, and sex, among other factors.
4. What are some sex discrimination examples?
A few examples of sex discrimination include quid pro quo harassment, same-sex sex discrimination, and gender-based sex discrimination. All of these fall under the umbrella term “sexual harassment,” which fosters a hostile environment at work.
Can an employer discriminate against married or unmarried women and men?
EEOC’s enforced laws don’t prohibit discrimination based on marital status. However, some state and local authorities may enact laws protecting employees against discrimination on this basis.