Gender discrimination in the workplace: What is it and how to deal with it

Workplace gender discrimination, or sex discrimination, is the unfair treatment of employees due to their gender. Federal and California law clearly states that doing so is illegal.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Government Code Section 12940(a) forbid employers to discriminate based on sex and gender. Firing, hiring, promoting, demoting, or putting special terms on someone’s employment based on their sex/gender is considered unlawful under these laws.

Even with great strides made toward gender equality, this issue is still something a lot of women experience today. Learn more about gender discrimination at work and how to handle it.

Workplace gender discrimination in California

California has one of the most comprehensive laws concerning employee protection. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (in particular, California Government Code Section 12940[a]) prohibits employers from discriminating based on sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, race, religion, marital status, and disability.

In cases of disability discrimination and sexual discrimination in the workplace, California law is interpreted more broadly compared to federal law. The Fair Employment and Housing Act applies to employers with at least five employees. The rules are enforced by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and can ultimately be enforced via a civil lawsuit in State Court.

Instances of gender discrimination

Gender discrimination can happen in a multitude of ways. This may manifest quite discreetly through simple company regulations but given a closer look, the bias becomes evident. Discrimination can be intentional or unintentional, but the negative consequences for the employee are the same.

Exclusion in meetings, conferences, and other business functions

This example is prevalent in fields that are more traditional and are predominantly male. Often, women are excluded from the “room where it happens,” where decisions and possible business connections are made.

It could be in professional settings like board meetings and conferences. Or it could be in more casual outings like afternoon golf or after-work drinks where you can make professional connections.

Being stereotyped into a specific role

If a supervisor or manager repeatedly gives an employee tasks that have nothing to do with their specific skill set or qualifications and job duties then bases it solely on their gender, then this is a form of discrimination.

For example, a woman is tasked to organize files, not because she is uniquely qualified for the task but because her supervisor has stereotyped women as systematic and orderly; at the same time, less capable of more decision-oriented tasks. This can be considered as unlawful discrimination.

Being denied a promotion, training, or apprenticeship programs

Being denied opportunities while less qualified coworkers of the opposite sex are given promotions or a pay raise is a clear instance of unequal treatment. Where performance, work-time commitments, and devotion among a body of employees are basically equal, employers are not permitted to provide opportunities that only favor one subset of those employees or one gender among those employees.

Unequal pay and benefits

Pay inequality is one example of possible gender discrimination. According to payment comparison website, women in 2020 make $0.81 for every dollar men earn for the same job. However, it is important for employers and employees to also factor in the time spent on the job, the efficiency, and the productivity of workers when analyzing the issue of equal pay in determining whether there has been any unlawful discrimination.

As a crude example, imagine the following two scenarios:

Scenario 1: An employer has a workforce made of 50% male and 50% females. Both males and female employees share nearly the same mix of education and job experience and nearly the same amount of work history and work time devoted to that employer. Despite this, the females on average earn $0.81 for every dollar the males earn.

In this scenario, the employer might be found liable for disparate impact gender discrimination due to the wage gap. However, look at the next scenario:

Scenario 2: An employer has a workforce made of 50% male and 50% females but the male workers have more advanced degrees and more job experience than the female workers. Moreover, the male workers on average spend 20% more hours working for the employer than the female workers.

In this scenario, the employer’s female employees may earn an average of $0.81 for every dollar the males earn. A gender disparate impact claim based on this wage gap would be very difficult, if not impossible, to prove.

Sometimes, direct evidence – verbal statements, emails, texts, facial expressions, or even body language – from an employer can be treated as an employer’s intent to treat its female employees less favorably. This type of evidence can help to bolster disparate impact and disparate treatment claims based on gender.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace refers to unwelcome sexual advances (physical or verbal) or requests for sexual favors. Types of sexual harassment include quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment.

What to do when faced with gender discrimination at work

If you’re being subjected to gender discrimination, here are actions you can take to rectify the situation:

Report it to the human resources department

Look at your company policies to make sure that the actions committed by your supervisor or manager are against company rules. Remember that as an employee, you’re entitled to protection against discrimination.

Understand your company’s reporting procedure and follow the necessary steps. Make sure to submit a written complaint or report to your company’s human resource department.

File a complaint with the state agency

If nothing has been done about your formal complaint, your next best course of action is to contact the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

File your claim immediately because there are time limits you have to follow. Look at their websites or call their local headquarters to find out more about filing a claim.

Hire legal counsel

Dealing with gender discrimination can be tricky. Make sure you’re doing everything right by getting a lawyer that specializes in discrimination cases. Having a legal counsel guiding you through the process will save you from making any missteps. Plus, they will see to it that you get the compensation you deserve.

Contact Hogue & Belong today for more information on workplace gender discrimination

Prestigious law firm Hogue & Belong has been litigating and handling civil lawsuits ranging from sexual harassment and discrimination to class action lawsuits in California. With over 30 years of combined experience and dedication toward seeking out justice for victims, they have become the top sexual assault attorneys in the area.

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