Sexual discrimination is illegal, harms everyone and exists everywhere, from small companies to high performing global firms. Sexual discrimination refers to a time when someone has been discriminated against because of his or her gender or sexual orientation, or because of his or her association with a group or organization generally associated with a specific sex. Over 24,000 discrimination lawsuits are filed in US federal courts every year, and many more are filed at the state level.
Where the issue becomes murky is in determining whether sexual discrimination has occurred. It is not always easy to identify true sexual discrimination, especially in a field that is traditionally dominated by one sex. And sometimes what appears to be sexual discrimination may in truth be nothing more than poor business decisions.
Here are some warning signs that may indicate that your company or co-workers are engaging in sexual discrimination:
- Biased Hiring/Firing Practices. A company consistently hires a specific gender, despite a number of equally qualified candidates of the opposite gender. On the flip side, a company engaged in sexual discrimination may consistently fire or lay off employees of a given gender, while simultaneously retaining those of the opposite gender, people who are in the same positions or who have less seniority.
- Failure to Promote. You (or co-workers of the same gender) have a stellar track record and have been with the company for a long time; yet less experienced people of the opposite gender, even some you trained, are consistently promoted.
- Unequal Salaries. People of the opposite gender with similar training and credentials, performing the same tasks, are consistently offered a higher salary. Unequal pay is one of the grayest areas of sexual discrimination because the amount a person earns can be directly impacted by bonuses and benefits.
- Comments About Dress and Mannerisms. Despite dressing in keeping with your company’s dress code, you are consistently told you are not “feminine” enough or that you behave (if you are a man) in a manner that is “too effeminate.”
- Favoritism. If employees of the opposite gender are consistently given better assignments, better leads, better equipment and included in key meetings, you may be facing gender discrimination.
If you believe you have been the victim of sexual discrimination at your place of work, it is imperative that you consult with an attorney. You have a limited widow of time (180 days from the date in which the activity occurred) in which to file a sexual harassment or sexual discrimination claim if that is the route you ultimately decide to take.