What is sex or gender discrimination? Sex or gender discrimination is treating individuals differently in their employment specifically because an individual is a woman or a man. If you have been rejected for employment, fired, or otherwise harmed in employment because of your sex or gender, then you may have suffered sex or gender discrimination. Discrimination is generally illegal regardless of whether it is based on sex, or gender, or both sex and gender.
You apply for a job for which you have experience and excellent qualifications, but you are not hired because some of the company's long-time clients are more comfortable dealing with men; you are told that you are laid off due to company cutbacks and reorganization, while men in the same job and with less seniority than you keep their jobs; you have worked for your company for several years, receiving exemplary reviews and an employee-of-the-year award, yet each of the five times you have applied for promotions, the positions you applied for are instead filled by less qualified men.
You worked your way up from the position of cook's helper to chef. A male chef with similar training and work experience was recently hired, and you find out that he will be paid more than you; you are a top salesperson for your company, but are moved to a less desirable territory while a man with much lower sales is given your territory and client base, enabling him to make much more in commissions than you will make for several years.
You work at a company for four years and put in many hours of overtime. After you return from having a baby, you tell your employer that you will not be able to put in as many hours of overtime. Your position is then changed to a lower level and you get less pay, while male coworkers in similar positions are allowed to cut back their overtime hours for personal reasons without any changes to their positions or pay.
Your company's health insurance policy does not cover your spouse, because it is assumed that he will have his own benefits, while your male coworkers have their wives covered by the policy. Because your husband is between jobs, you have to pay increased health benefits on his behalf that your coworkers do not pay for their wives. If any of these things have happened to you on the job, you may have suffered sex or gender discrimination.
Sex or gender discrimination may be accompanied by other forms of illegal discrimination as well, such as age , race , or disability discrimination. Pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment are also considered forms of sex discrimination under the law. Which federal law covers sex or gender discrimination? Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of is a federal law that protects individuals from discrimination based upon sex.
This law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against individuals in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment, such as promotions, raises, and other job opportunities because of their sex. The laws of most states also make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex. For more information, see question 19 below. Additionally, there are specific laws protecting employees of federal contractors from sex or gender discrimination.
Additionally, Executive Order protects employees of federal contractors from discrimination based on compensation inquiries, discussions, or disclosures. For more information of protections specific to employees of federal contractors see our federal contractors page.
Explicit protections against compensation discrimination, sexually hostile work environments, discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, and discrimination against unlawful sex stereotypes, gender identity, and transgender status are made in the new rule.
This new rule further enforces Section of the Rehabilitation Act of These laws make it illegal for contractors and subcontractors doing businesses with the federal government to discriminate in employment because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or status as a veteran. They are also prohibited from discriminating based on the disclosure or discussion of compensation with other employees.
This rule will appear in an upcoming edition of the Federal Register. Please check back to find when the final rule has been published and when it becomes a law. Who is covered by the law?
Title VII covers all private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions that employ 15 or more individuals. These laws also cover private and public employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor management committees controlling apprenticeship and training. Many states also make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex.
For more information, please see our page on the minimum number of employees needed to file a claim under your state law. The law's protections apply to both current workers and job applicants.
If you are a current employee and are fired, not promoted, or not accommodated due to your sex or gender, you are protected.
If you are not hired due to your sex or gender, you are also protected. Can an employer pay me less because I'm a woman? Can I be paid less because I'm a man? The laws against discrimination in compensation cover all forms of compensation, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits.
The EPA requires that men and women be given equal pay for equal work in the same establishment. The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. It is the content of the job, not job titles, that determines whether jobs are substantially equal. Unlike the EPA, Title VII does not require that the job of the person claiming discrimination be substantially equal to that of a higher paid person of the other sex, nor does Title VII require the person claiming discrimination to work in the same establishment as the higher paid person.
Under the EPA, employers are prohibited from paying unequal wages to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment. The law defines these terms as follows: The key issue is what skills are required for the job, not what skills the individual employees may have.
Employers may not reduce wages of either sex to equalize pay between men and women. A violation of the EPA may occur where a different wage is or was paid to a person who worked in the same job before or after an employee of the opposite sex. Is it illegal to give different benefits to male and female employees? As discussed above, even though differences between the sexes may result in different benefit costs to an employer, it is against the law for an employer to discriminate between men and women with regard to benefits.
An employer cannot make benefits available: It is also against the law for an employer to have a pension or retirement plan which establishes different optional or compulsory retirement ages based on sex, or which differentiates in benefits on the basis of sex. Can an employer treat me differently because I can or have become pregnant? Pregnancy discrimination, defined as discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions, is illegal under Title VII.
Under the law, pregnancy is considered a temporary disability, as are related medical conditions such as severe morning sickness, doctor-ordered bed rest, childbirth, recovery from childbirth, and any other related medical condition.
Title VII prohibits employers from treating pregnant women differently from other temporarily sick, injured or disabled employees.
Employers must therefore give pregnant employees and temporarily physically disabled new mothers the same treatment and benefits that they give to employees with other temporary disabilities. Can an employer treat me differently because I am unmarried or married? Marital status discrimination is not prohibited by the federal laws generally applicable to private employment, which prohibit discrimination based on race and color , sex, religion , national origin , age and disability.
However, several states have laws making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of marital status. It is illegal for your employer to make assumptions based on gender stereotypes, even if those assumptions are motivated in part by your marital status. For more information, see our page on family responsibilities discrimination. Can an employer treat me differently because I have kids or have to care for a family member?
Parental status discrimination is not prohibited by the federal laws generally applicable to private employment, which prohibit discrimination based on race and color , sex, religion , national origin , age and disability. However, several states have laws making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of parental status.
It is illegal for your employer to make assumptions based on gender stereotypes, even if those assumptions are motivated in part by your parental status. For more information, see our page on family leave. What's the difference between sex discrimination and sexual harassment?
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature are all types of sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
For more information, see our page on sexual harassment. As noted throughout this page, there are other forms of discrimination on the basis of sex that are not sexual harassment, such as discrimination in hiring, firing, promotions or benefits, pay discrimination, and gender stereotyping. In addition, it is possible to have illegal, sex-based harassment that is not of a sexual nature, sometimes called gender-based harassment.
Is sex ever a qualification for a certain job? Only in very limited situations. The BFOQ exception as to sex has been interpreted very narrowly.
Therefore, in the following situations, the BFOQ concept will not apply: The refusal to hire a woman because of her sex based on assumptions of the comparative employment characteristics of women in general. For example, the assumption that the turnover rate among women is higher than among men.
The refusal to hire an individual based on stereotyped characterizations of the sexes. Individuals should be considered on the basis of individual capacities and not on the basis of any characteristics generally attributed to the group. Such stereotypes include, for example, that men are less capable of assembling intricate equipment, or that women are less capable of aggressive salesmanship.
The refusal to hire an individual because of the preferences of coworkers, the employer, clients or customers except where it is necessary for the purpose of authenticity or genuineness, such as hiring an actor or actress.
My company has an affirmative action plan. How can this affect me? Affirmative action goals and timetables are targets for equality, parity and a level playing field. Like goals for profits or productivity, they mark and measure progress, but do not carry legal penalties. Quotas are illegal unless court-ordered to rectify discrimination.
Your company's affirmative action plan may be voluntary or may be required by law, if your company has contracts with federal, state or local governments.
The only Supreme Court case dealing with affirmative action for women recognized that evaluations that were supposedly merit-based may still reflect biases. The justices upheld an affirmative action plan that promoted a woman over a man with slightly higher score. Under the law as written in Executive Orders and interpreted by the courts, anyone benefiting from affirmative action must have relevant and valid job or educational qualifications.
If you are a woman at a company with an affirmative action plan, the plan may help eliminate some of the barriers to advancement women have historically faced and may have actually faced working for your employer. You may wish to consult with your company's human resource department or your personnel handbook to learn more about how the plan may benefit you and other female employees.
Can my employer make me wear a dress or feminine clothing? In an important U. Supreme Court case known as Price Waterhouse, the Court ruled that discrimination based on gender stereotyping is illegal sex discrimination under Title VII.
Many employers have dress codes or otherwise expect their employees to dress according to the customs of the profession. Nothing in the Price Waterhouse case prevents an employer from asking that both male and female employees dress professionally.