Many people confuse gender and sex discrimination, as the terms “sex” and “gender” are often interchangeable. By definition, sex discrimination is based on an individual’s biological identity as male or female. By comparison, gender discrimination is based on individual characteristics which are culturally associated with “masculinity” or “femininity,” such as an employee’s manner of dressing or speaking.

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Employers must be extremely careful with regard to employment contracts or policies which could potentially infringe upon protected legal rights. It is difficult to be “too” vigilant or meticulous when it comes to drafting and implementing gender-neutral company procedures. Failure to do so can lead to allegations of workplace discrimination, which in turn can lead to highly contentious, disruptive, and expensive litigation.

Whether an employee has already filed a lawsuit against your organization, or you are simply concerned about ensuring compliance with state and federal anti-discrimination laws, the experienced employment law attorneys of Bellatrix PC can help. Our legal services range from performing a comprehensive business risk review to identify and improve vulnerable areas in your company’s current policies, to providing strategic and aggressive defense should litigation become necessary.

Don’t wait for the problem to escalate. To start discussing some of your legal options in a private consultation, call our business attorneys right away at (800) 449-8992. We proudly serve entities of all types, ranging from the small start-up or sole proprietorship to the well-established corporation.

Examples of Sex Discrimination in the Workplace

California state laws and federal laws alike vigorously protect employees against acts of workplace discrimination on the basis of sex. These laws require equal treatment, policies, standards and practices for males and females in all phases of the employment process. Employers should note this also extends to non-employee individuals who are submitting job applications. Laws prohibiting employer misconduct are aggressively enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC, and generally encompass discriminatory policies and practices pertaining to:

  • Benefits
  • Compensation Packages
  • Hiring
  • Job Assignments
  • Layoffs
  • Promotions
  • Raises
  • Recruiting
  • Termination
  • Training
  • Working Conditions

Below are some common examples of discriminatory conduct based on an employee’s sex:

  • An employee sexually harasses another employee, such as making suggestive comments or requesting sexual favors. While many sexual harassment claims involve female employees alleging harassment by male bosses or co-workers, it’s important to remember that harassment of males by females, males by other males, or females by other females are all prohibited by law.
  • An employer passes over an employee for a promotion because he or she does not conform with typical “gender norms” related to dress, appearance, or other personal characteristics.
  • A business owner approves a reduction in workforce [link when published] which disproportionately terminates mostly male or female employees on the basis of sex rather than poor performance or other legitimate concerns.
  • An employer terminates an employee after discovering that he or she is homosexual or bisexual.

Does Your Business Comply with the Equal Pay Act?

Two of the most common forms of sex-based discrimination involve “equal work for equal pay,” and hitting the “glass ceiling.”

The Equal Pay Act or EPA of 1963, which is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, generally requires employers to grant equal pay to male and female employees who are performing the same job under similar working conditions. However, it is crucially important for business owners to understand that “equal pay” is not limited to an employee’s salary alone, but also includes health benefits, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, business travel expense allowances, and other reimbursements.

The EPA covers the majority of employers, subject to certain exceptions. In most cases, employers are required to keep detailed information on employee wages, hours worked, and conditions and employment practices. This ensures there are reliable records to examine should claims of discrimination arise in the future. Employers should consider such documentation to be one of their most powerful allies, as accurate records can often be used to disprove costly and damaging accusations.

The “glass ceiling” refers to the invisible barrier that prevents women, who are equally as qualified as their male counterparts, from being promoted due to their sex. Another version of this would be if an employer only hires males or only hires females for the company. These types of claims are generally filed in federal court as class actions against a particular company which the plaintiff alleges contains a “glass ceiling.” Discrimination claims based on sex can also be brought under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, as well in state court.

Contact Our Employment Lawyers

Whether the sex discrimination claim against your company has merit or not, our experienced team can advise you regarding your legal options while investigating and developing your defense. We tailor our services to your company’s style and needs, while keeping your company’s legal budget and time constraints in mind.

To arrange for a private legal consultation, call Bellatrix PC at (800) 449-8992 today. Our Missouri offices are located in St. Louis, and our California offices are located in San Diego and Riverside.


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