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Gender Discrimination

Discrimination based on gender (or sex) is a common civil rights violation that has many forms. This discrimination can include sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and unequal pay issues.

Sex discrimination happens when you're treated unfavorably based on your sex, or biological characteristics. Gender discrimination is a type of sex discrimination. Gender refers to socially constructed characteristics of males and females. The terms "gender" and "sex" are often used interchangeably.

Gender identity discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination also land in this category. Gender discrimination laws protect the rights of transgender people, too.

This article offers in-depth information on gender and sex discrimination in various settings. You can find links to federal laws and U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Links to other articles related to gender and sex discrimination are also included.

Gender Discrimination: Federal Laws

As with race, the United States still has work to do on gender discrimination. Discrimination on the basis of sex tends to affect women more often than men.

Specific federal laws have attempted to level the playing field, including:

  • Equal Credit Opportunity ActProhibits discrimination against credit applicants based on gender. This includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Fair Housing ActProhibits sex discrimination in house sales, rentals, or financing. This includes gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Family and Medical Leave ActAffords employees the right to take time off from work for an illness. The act also addresses employee rights to care for ill family members.
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA): Prohibits pregnancy discrimination. This act also prohibits discrimination based on childbirth or a pregnancy-related medical condition.
  • Title IXTitle IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which updated the Civil Rights Act, requires educational gender parity. The law also extends to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Sexual Harassment: Overview

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Here's how the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment:

"Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment."

There are two main types of sexual harassment:

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo sexual harassment is the first type. It involves a person in an authority position asking for sexual favors for some benefit.

The benefit can be either stated or implied, such as a wage increase or protection from getting laid off.

Hostile Work Environment

The other type of harassment creates a "hostile work environment." This typically happens through jokes, threats, or other behaviors. These behaviors intimidate and affect a victim's ability to work.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination: The Essentials

Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status is illegal. Such discrimination violates Title VII's protections against sex discrimination.

It's illegal for an employer to consider sexual orientation in employment decisions. The same applies to considering an employee's transgender status.

Remember that protection only applies to employers with at least 15 employees. Legal protections also apply to job applicants.

Pregnancy Discrimination: The Basics

Women have generally seen lower wages and fewer advancement opportunities. Since most people who can get pregnant identify as women, pregnancy discrimination is a gender issue.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) protects employees. It prevents employers from basing most employment decisions on pregnancy status. The act applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

A covered employer must do both of the following:

  1. Hold a job opening for a pregnancy-related leave
  2. Hold it for the same length of time as if the employee were taking sick leave

You Don't Have to Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer's Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options. Learn how to best protect your human rights law protections, especially when it comes to gender discrimination claims.

Visit FindLaw's attorney directory to find a civil rights lawyer near you who can help.

Learn About Gender Discrimination

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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