Employers are prohibited from engaging in discriminatory acts in the workplace against applicants and employees because of their protected characteristics. There are numerous protected characteristics, including gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, color, religion, disability, age, genetic information, national origin, citizenship status, pregnancy, and more. While workplace discrimination is illegal, it is still fairly common. In many cases, discrimination in the workplace takes subtle forms instead of being open and obvious.
Gender discrimination is a type of illegal workplace discrimination that has continued to occur despite federal and state laws. Employers that engage in gender discrimination often do so in subtle ways. You need to be able to identify the signs that you are the victim of illegal gender discrimination in the workplace to protect your rights. Here are some signs to watch for from the attorneys at Swartz Swidler.
Signs of Workplace Gender Discrimination
Gender discrimination can involve more than being fired based on your sex or propositioned sexually by a supervisor. It can also take numerous other forms, including the following:
- Refusing to hire female applicants
- Refusing to promote employees based on their gender
- Refusing to assign members of one gender to a project
- Disciplining members of one gender more harshly than members of a different gender for similar policy violations
- Terminating an employee based on gender
- Paying members of one gender less than members of the other gender for similar work
- Giving bad references to members of one gender
- Refusing to train an employee based on sex
- Asking female applicants improper questions
- Engaging in gender-based harassment
- Giving members of one gender different terms and conditions of employment than members of another gender
Certain types of gender discrimination are hard to uncover but can be inferred. For example, companies in which women are repeatedly passed over for promotions and all of the executive-level positions are held by men are likely engaging in gender discrimination.
Types of Gender Discrimination
There are several forms of gender discrimination. Your employer might be liable in a discrimination case if you were discriminated against at work and treated poorly based on your sex, gender identity, pregnancy, or sexual orientation. If you believe that you were treated poorly at work because of one of these characteristics, you should speak to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler to determine whether your treatment rose to the level of illegal discrimination.
How Is Gender Discrimination Proven?
Gender discrimination that is overt is easier to prove than subtler discrimination. You should keep notes of the times and dates each incident occurs, what was said, what happened, and the names of everyone who was present. Whenever you suffer harassment based on your gender, you should journal it. If your employer takes an adverse action against you that you believe is based on your gender, you should also keep records of it. File an internal complaint of gender discrimination with your company’s human resources department or to the designated individual in your company’s policy who handles complaints. If that designated individual is the person who is discriminating against you, give your report to a different supervisor or to one above the culprit up the chain of command.
Isolated incidents of harassment are generally not enough to prove illegality unless they are severe. For example, if a coworker told you a tasteless joke based on your gender but then apologized and never did it again, that is unlikely to be enough to support a harassment complaint. However, if you were sexually assaulted at work, that is severe enough to support a complaint.
If there is a continuing pattern of conduct that is pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment, you could have a strong case for a harassment and discrimination complaint. If your employer fails to act to end what is happening after you file an internal complaint, you can file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Subtle forms of gender discrimination can also form the basis of a gender discrimination complaint. For example, if your employer has a facially neutral policy that has a disparate impact on members of one gender or gender identity, your employer might be liable for disparate impact discrimination.
Watch the types of criteria your employer requires you to meet for a promotion, for example. Consider whether the criteria are related to the position’s duties. If not, consider whether members of one gender or gender identity are affected more than others.
Retain copies of as many documents as possible if doing so is not against your company’s policies. Keep copies of emails, text messages, performance evaluations, and others. Talk to coworkers to elicit information about whether your employer has separate systems of payment that give preferences to one gender over others. If your company’s policies state that you cannot retain copies of paperwork, your attorney might be able to subpoena the documents for your discrimination complaint.
Damages for Gender Discrimination
Some of the types of damages you might be able to recover in a gender discrimination complaint include the following remedies:
- Back pay and job reinstatement
- Front pay if reinstatement is impractical
- Promotion to a position you were denied
- Injunction against discrimination and harassment
- Pain and suffering
- Attorney’s fees
- Expert witness’s fees
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Court costs
- Potential punitive damages for egregious cases
Compensatory and punitive damages are limited by the EEOC based on the number of employees that are employed by your employer.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s gender discrimination provisions only covers employers with 15 or more employees. However, you can file a complaint in New Jersey under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination if you work for a smaller employer. The NJLAD applies to employers of any size. You also have a short period to file a complaint with the EEOC and state. Your discrimination charge should be filed within 300 days of the discriminatory act if it is something covered by both state and federal law or within 180 days if it is covered by federal but not state law.
Get Help From an Experienced Employment Attorney
If you have been the victim of workplace discrimination based on your gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy, you should talk to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler as soon as possible. Call us today at (856)685-7420 to request a free consultation.