4 Examples of Gender Discrimination in the Workplace

Gender discrimination, or sexual discrimination, can describe any action that targets a person because of his or her gender, sex or gender identity. This is, unfortunately, a common civil rights violation in workplaces. Gender discrimination can be subtle or blatant. It could be a slight inconvenience at work or be severe enough to create a hostile workplace. As an employee, the laws in California are on your side. Our Los Angeles employment lawyers understand that you have rights if you believe someone at work is treating you unfairly according to the state’s gender discrimination laws.

Choosing a Less-Qualified Candidate of the Opposite Sex

It is against the law for an employer to base hiring decisions on a candidate’s gender, sex or sexual orientation. An employer cannot choose an applicant of the opposite sex over you for this reason alone. The employer must have a valid and lawful reason to make the hiring decision, such as the other candidate’s experience, education or skill. The same is true about making employment decisions such as assigning special projects, giving promotions and granting pay raises.

Compensating Employees Unequally Without Justification

California’s Equal Pay Act protects you from any form of gender or sex discrimination that results in less pay than a coworker for substantially similar work. If you notice you are making less than a coworker of a different gender for jobs that are the same or almost the same, you may have grounds to bring a complaint against your employer. The Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from giving unequal pay based on a protected class such as gender or sex. The employer must justify the pay differential based on merit, seniority, a system that measures productivity and/or another bona fide factor.

Segregating and/or Limiting One Gender

No employer in California may segregate employees based on gender – especially if this segregation also limits or handicaps one gender. While an action such as having separate bathrooms for men and women does not constitute gender discrimination, it could be discrimination if your boss separates the men from the women and then gives the men better projects. Segregating, classifying or limiting employees or job applicants based on sex or gender in a way that deprives that group from employment opportunities is illegal.

Sexually Harassing an Employee

An often subtle form of gender discrimination in the workplace is sexual harassment. Unlike a boss firing you because of your sex, sexual harassment can happen in less blatant ways. It can still, however, be pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment or make you feel unsafe. Sexual harassment can refer to any consistent action based on your sex or gender that creates a hostile or unproductive work environment.

  • Sexual jokes or innuendos
  • Inappropriate touching
  • Sexual gestures or facial expressions
  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Lewd comments
  • Offensive images posted at work
  • Displays of sexual objects
  • Offensive drawings
  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Other sexually inappropriate behaviors

An action meets the definition of sexual harassment if it is severe or pervasive enough to create an intolerable workplace. If the sexual harassment or gender discrimination interferes with your work performance, the coworker and/or your employer may be guilty of a civil rights violation. In these cases, you may have grounds to file an official claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as a victim of workplace sexual harassment.

What Can I Do if I’m Being Treated Unfairly at Work?

If someone is treating you unfairly at work because of your gender or sex, first try to work it out with your company by going to Human Resources. Then, go to the EEOC with your problem. If your employer does not remedy the issue, the EEOC can conduct an official investigation. The EEOC may mediate between its officers, you and your employer to achieve a fair and satisfactory resolution. If mediation fails, you could have the option of bringing a civil lawsuit against your employer. A lawsuit could demand justice and compensation for your gender discrimination damages.