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Employment Discrimination: Expert Witnesses Explain Workplace Discrimination based on Gender Bias

In some situations, an employee may complain of sexual discrimination that is not necessarily sexual in nature. An employee may not be being harassed for sexual favors. Instead, he or she may be harassed because of gender bias or stereotypes. This type of discrimination is also illegal.

Sexual Discrimination

Sexual discrimination refers to treating employees differently due to their biological sexual identity. Sexual discrimination is prohibited based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, there are other types of sexual discrimination that are also prohibited, including discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. Many states and the EEOC consider discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity as illegal sexual discrimination.

Types of Discrimination

Women may be subjected to subtle discrimination from both men and women in the workplace. Other types of discrimination may be more overt. Women may be passed over for promotions or not hired simply because they are women. Men may be denied entry into certain occupations because it has been historically occupied by women. A supervisor may find a particular
employee not fit for a particular job because of certain stereotypes regarding his or her gender.

Glass Ceiling Policies
Some unwritten policies may prevail in certain workplaces or industries, such as so-called glass ceilings. These policies basically create an invisible barrier in which generally women are prohibited from advancing any further in their career due to the good old boy’s policy that a man has traditionally held certain higher levels.


While a workplace can often establish a dress code, paying too much attention to looks can put a company in legal troubled waters. Women may be judged for being too pretty or provocative. However, they may also be discriminated against by not advancing in their careers if they are perceived as not attractive enough, too old or not sexy enough.

Adverse Employment Action

Sexual discrimination occurs when a person’s sex is a motivating factor for an adverse employment action. An adverse employment action can be very broad in nature. Adverse employment action may start at the very beginning of the employment relationship, such as when a person applies for a job for which he or she is qualified and has excellent qualifications. If the hiring manager does not hire the person because the long-time clients are more comfortable dealing with men or women, this can be considered sexual discrimination. If layoffs are issued because of company cutbacks but men with ;ess seniority are allowed to keep their jobs, sexual discrimination may be to blame. If women apply for a promotion and men keep getting hired despite being less qualified, sex discrimination may be to blame.

Another important way that people can be discriminated against based on sex is through receiving less pay. If a person of a different sex has the same training and experience but gets paid more, this may be the basis for a sexual discrimination claim. Even if the pay is the same but the job classification is inferior, this may be considered an adverse employment action. Likewise, if a person of a different sex receives a better compensation package or when his or her spouse is excluded from coverage under health insurance while workers of a different sex have their spouses covered under their insurance policy, sex discrimination may be at play.

Gender Stereotypes

In some sex discrimination cases, the discrimination is due to misguided beliefs about people based on their sexual identity. For example, women may be expected to perform office housework, such as planning parties, cleaning up the area or taking notes during meetings. Women may be expected to serve on committees that may take up more of their time without offering any tangible employment benefits. Women may be expected to be more polite and may be perceived more harshly if they act in a more assertive manner. Men may be excluded from certain jobs because of the belief that women will not be comfortable with a man in the position, such as a nurse or salesperson in a woman’s store. Sex discrimination can also occur when a woman is perceived as being less of a team player because she has children and men in the same situation are perceived as being more responsible.

Courts have found sex discrimination when women have been denied promotions due to not fitting within certain gender stereotypes. For example, if an employee is passed over because she did not appear womanly enough or was told that she needed to attend charm school.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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