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Discrimination Against Women in the Workplace is Alive and Well 

Discrimination against women in the workplace is when an employer treats a female employee less favorably than the employer would a male employee specifically because of the employee's gender. Today’s blog is designed to provide workplace advice to those who fall victim to workplace discrimination.

Key Federal Laws Prohibiting Gender Discrimination

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, and national original.
  • Equal Pay Act (EPA). The EPA prohibits sex-based pay discrimination between men and women who perform under similar working conditions. The EPA applies to all employers covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The PDA, a part of Title VII, prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA prohibits discrimination against pregnant women and parents as well as employees with serious health conditions.

Examples of Workplace Discrimination


In the past, qualified female employees have often been prevented from advancing to management positions in companies because of their gender. This term often used for this artificial barrier is "glass ceiling." If this is the case, it is considered workplace discrimination against women and protected by Title VII.

According to Up Counsel, workplace discrimination takes on many forms.

Sexual Harassment

When a person in an authority role asks for sexual favors from an employee in exchange for a workplace benefit, it is called Quid pro quo sexual harassment. Some examples of a workplace benefit include a promotion, an increase in pay, and protection from being laid off.

It is also considered sexual harassment when a male co-worker or authority figure tells inappropriate jokes, makes threats, or exhibits any form of behavior that could intimidate a female employee or affect her ability to work. This type of sexual harassment falls under the label of "Hostile Work Environment."

Workplace Gender Discrimination Alive and Well

Almost a quarter (23%) of females aged between 16 and 30 have been sexually harassed at work but only 8% have reported it, according to the poll for the Young Women’s Trust. Among the reasons for women not reporting workplace sexual harassment were fear of losing their job or being given fewer hours and not knowing how to make a complaint. The findings, contained in the trust’s report, It’s (still) a Rich Man’s World, published 100 years on from the first women getting the vote, suggest illegal discrimination is commonplace throughout the employment process.

Almost a third (31%) of young women reported sex discrimination while working or looking for work and one in five (19%) said they are paid less than their male colleagues for the same or similar employment.

Additionally, 43% of young mothers said they had experienced maternity discrimination.

The impact of gender discrimination is highlighted by the 52% of young women who said their work has had a negative impact on their mental health, compared with 42% of men. Gender discrimnation

Examples Of Gender Discrimination and Harassment

Many factors can affect the type of discrimination a woman may experience in the workplace, depending on her place of work, location, and other identifying characteristics of herself and coworkers. Examples include:

  • prejudiced treatment in hiring or firing processes on account of gender
  • being passed over for a promotion on account of gender; also known as the “glass ceiling”
  • getting paid less than a male employee who works the same job
  • being subject to unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other forms of sexual harassment
  • being given less paid sick leave or denied employee benefits on account of gender
  • being written up for a behavior that does not result in disciplinary action when performed by an employee of another sex
  • being referred to by a name or gender that you don’t identify with (e.g. a transgender man is referred to as ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs.’)
  • being the subject of derogatory language or slurs on account of being female

Examples of Unfair Treatment of Women

Women May be Treated Differently than Men in a Variety of Work Situations including:

  • job responsibilities
  • dress code
  • work hours
  • starting salary
  • performance standards
  • vacation days
  • sick leave

What To Do If You’re Experiencing Gender Discrimination: A Step-By-Step Guide

If you’ve experiencing discrimination in your workplace on account of your gender, take these steps to determine your legal options:

1. Consult Your Employee Handbook

Employee handbooks typically contain some form of policy against employee discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of gender and/or sexual orientation. Take a look at your handbook to see if there are specific policies outlined regarding discrimination in your workplace, including instructions on how to identify and report discrimination.

2. Document the Discriminatory Act

Once you have identified your employer’s policy on gender discrimination, begin documenting the type of discrimination you or a fellow employee has experienced, including its effects on your work productivity, workplace safety, and witnesses.

Write down everything you can remember regarding the incident(s). No detail is too small or inconsequential. Include times, dates, locations, and the names of all involved.

3. Report The Incident(s) To A Supervisor or Human Resources

Report the discrimination to a member of your employer’s human resources (HR) department, or whomever is responsible for fielding workplace complaints. If you choose to take legal action against your company, it will be beneficial to your case to note that you took the proper steps to report the discrimination internally to the appropriate personnel.

4. Consult An Employment Discrimination Lawyer

Reporting discrimination in the workplace can be an intimidating process. Despite legal protections in place to allow for reporting without retaliation, many people still report being illegally retaliated against in some way.

Retaliation for Reporting Wrongdoing

Women who report wrongdoing may be subject to retaliation from their superiors including:

  • demotion
  • cutting work hours
  • docked pay
  • increased scrutiny
  • verbal or physical abuse
  • defamation of character
  • making an employee’s work more challenging
  • wrongful termination

If you’ve reported the discriminatory act to someone in your company without results, or have faced retaliation for reporting, your wisest move would be to contact an employment lawyer.

Posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on October 29, 2020. You can sign up for our newsletter and learn more about Dr. Mintz’s activities at: https://www.stevenmintzethics.com/. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.