Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for an employer to harass an employee or treat him or her differently in the terms and conditions of employment because of the employee’s sex or gender. The law prohibits prejudicial treatment in compensation, benefits, job classification, hiring, firing, and promotions. Title VII applies to employers with fifteen or more employees. Many states have laws which expand anti-discrimination protections to cover smaller employers. Please see our chart of Information by State for more detailed information.
Included in Title VII’s provisions regarding gender discrimination are prohibitions of sexual harassment (please follow link for more detailed information) and discrimination based on pregnancy. Discrimination as a result of marital status or parental status is not explicitly prohibited under federal law (though it is under some state laws); nevertheless, differential treatment on these grounds often occurs in conjunction with sex/gender discrimination.
The Equal Pay Act further protects men and women from gender discrimination by specifically requiring employers to provide equal pay to men and women who perform "equal work," unless the difference in pay is caused by differences in seniority, merit or some other factor that is not based upon sex.
A few examples of discrimination based on sex/gender might include:
- If you have worked for the same company for four years with excellent reviews, but each time you have applied for a promotion, the position has gone to a less qualified male applicant;
- If you are a female salesperson who is consistently assigned to less lucrative territories than your male counterparts, enabling them to earn far more in commissions than you do over the same time period;
- If you are a father who requests to work fewer overtime hours so that you can care for your children; you are demoted as a result, even though women in similar positions in your company reduced their overtime hours to spend time with children without being demoted;
- If you request a temporary disability leave because you are pregnant and your doctor has put you on bed rest; the company denies the leave but grants another male employee a temporary disability leave to recover from surgery;
- If you are the only woman in a management position at your company, and you are demoted after returning from maternity leave because your boss “needs someone who’s going to be able to put in the hours.” Male employees who are also new parents have not been demoted. This would be one situation where discrimination based on parental status amounts to gender discrimination because it involves unfair treatment based on gender stereotypes.
- If you inform your employer that you are pregnant and she terminates you, even though you will still be able to work for several more months.
If you believe that you are or were the victim of sex or gender discrimination, it is important to contact a knowledgeable employment attorney as soon as possible, as there may be serious time limit issues to your case. The attorneys at Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP are committed advocates of employee rights with years of experience handling gender discrimination claims. Contact us to discuss the details of your case.