What is Sex Discrimination

What is Sex Discrimination?

What is sex discrimination? There’s a good chance that you’ve heard of it, but what does it look like in the workplace, and what can you do if you’ve experienced it? Here’s what you need to know.

What is Sex Discrimination?

Sex discrimination involves treating a person unfavorably because of that person’s sex. That includes sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions (including lactation), and even sex stereotypes.

Federal law is very clear: It’s illegal to discriminate against someone because of their sex when it comes to any aspect of employment, including:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Pay
  • Job assignments
  • Promotions
  • Layoffs
  • Training
  • Benefits
  • Any other term or condition of employment

Related: 7 common employment law issues

What About Sex Discrimination Harassment?

Like discrimination, it’s also unlawful to harass someone because of that person’s sex. That can include harassment of a verbal, physical or sexual nature. Sexual harassment can involve unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, teasing and a number of other actions – but sex discrimination harassment doesn’t have to be sexual in nature for it to be against the law. It can involve offensive remarks about a person’s sex.

Harassers can be of different or the same gender – the law treats those situations the same. It doesn’t matter whether a woman is harassing a man (or vice-versa), a man is harassing another man, or a woman is harassing another woman. Additionally, harassers can be supervisors, coworkers, or even someone who’s not employed in the same workplace (such as a customer or client).

Related: Can you be fired for being pregnant?

What Rights Do You Have When it Comes to Sex Discrimination?

Sex discrimination, which occurs when someone is treated less favorably because of that person’s sex, is against the law. You have rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, whether you’re an employee, a job applicant or a union member, provided that your employer has 15 or more employees – and in California, you’re protected under the California Fair Pay Act, California Equal Pay Act of 1949 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Related: What are the criteria for a hostile work environment?

How Can You Tell if You’re Discriminated Against Because of Your Sex?

It can be difficult to tell if you’re discriminated against because of your sex; most employers won’t come right out and say, “We’re not hiring you because you’re a woman” or “You’re fired because you identify as a man.”

Sex discrimination can be almost totally silent – you may not even know it’s happening. However, you may notice examples that sex discrimination is occurring, such as:

  • One sex being excluded from important meetings or work-related get-togethers
  • Managers suggesting certain clothing to impress clients of the opposite gender
  • One sex being promoted across the workplace while the other is not
  • Sharing offensive comics or memes that feed into sex stereotypes or contain sexual content
  • Supervisors not taking reports of discrimination seriously

These are just a few of the signs that sex discrimination may be occurring in your workplace. If you’re unsure whether what you’ve experienced is sex discrimination, it’s in your best interest to get in touch with a Los Angeles discrimination attorney who can help.

Related: FEHA FAQ

Can You Sue an Employer for Sex Discrimination in California?

If your employer has discriminated against you because of your sex or gender, you can sue. However, for the most part, you must file a complaint with the DFEH or EEOC first. Your attorney can give you specific guidance after hearing about your situation.

If you successfully sue your employer, you could be entitled to damages, such as:

  • Back pay or front pay
  • A promotion
  • A raise
  • Benefits, including pension benefits
  • Bonuses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Sex Discrimination in Your Workplace?

If you work in California and suspect that you’re the victim of sex discrimination, we may be able to help you. Call our office for a free consultation – we’re available at 818-230-8380 or through the form below.


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