How Civil Rights Act Protects Against Gender Discrimination


Despite the passage of laws to protect workers from gender inequality in the workplace, the problem still exists. Subtle practices such as veiled remarks or overt unequal pay continue to plague some companies. Typically considered an act towards women, gender inequality can affect both sexes.

Types of Workplace Gender Discrimination

Gender inequality, also known as sex discrimination, is defined as treating a person as unequal to others based solely on their gender. Specifically, the treatment cannot simply be different, but rather, unequal. For instance, providing separate bathrooms is not discrimination. However, using separate criteria to promote women and men is discriminatory.

Failing to pay women and men equally for equal work is discrimination. Any time an employer makes job offers or hiring decisions based on gender due to assumptions or stereotypes, they are practicing discriminatory behaviors.

Using pregnancy to discriminate against women is illegal. Pregnancy and childbirth should be treated the same as any other temporary condition.

Forms of Harassment

Another form of gender discrimination in the workplace is harassment, which can take on many forms. One prominent form involves unwanted sexually suggestive contact. This may include inappropriate touching, suggestive photos, unwanted sexual overtures and off-color jokes.

A promise of a promotion or other workplace benefits by a superior to a lower level employee in return for sexual favors is also sexual harassment. Threatening a person’s job security if the sexual favors are not granted fits the legal description of harassment.

There are also state laws that deal with sexual harassment. In some states, the laws are stricter than federal laws.

How the Civil Rights Act Protects Against Gender Discrimination

Although it is not possible to legislate minds, there are laws written to give people an avenue to pursue a gender inequality case. Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for an employer to use an individual’s gender as a basis to fire, refuse to hire or discriminate in wages.

In addition, an employer cannot deprive opportunities for professional development just because it favors one gender over the other. An employee who complains about discriminatory practices is protected from retaliation by their employer.

It is best that employers implement effective policies to change the current atmosphere of inequality. Waiting until a public lawsuit or disturbing news report can damage employers’ reputations. Improvement in areas related to affordable child care and paid maternity leave can also level the playing field. Hopefully, the pace of change will erase inequality as a workplace issue.