Gender discrimination is an employer’s unfair treatment of an employee or applicant based solely on the individual’s sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation as it relates to hiring, benefits, leave, terminations, or promotions. Luckily, there are both state and federal laws in place that protect victims of this type of workplace discrimination.
Protections Under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD)
New Jersey takes discrimination in the workplace seriously. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination protects New Jersey employees from discriminatory hiring and employment practices based on gender, familial status, marital status, pregnancy, domestic partnership or civil union status.
Federal Laws for Gender Discrimination
Gender discrimination is a violation of civil rights and is therefore covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These protections include fair and equal treatment in the workplace and a ban on sexual harassment. Illegal sex discrimination includes treating an employee or applicant differently based on pregnancy, childbirth, or other gender-related issues.
Federal laws also provide broad protections against sex discrimination. These laws work to prohibit discrimination based on gender or perceived gender in a variety of situations. Laws include:
- Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII—protects against gender discrimination in the workplace.
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act – protects those who are or plan to become pregnant against discriminatory actions by employers that may involve reduced hours, demotions, issues regarding medical leave, and more.
- Family and Medical Leave Act – gives employees the right to take time off for maternity leave or for their own or a family member’s illness.
- Equal Pay Act of 1963 – sets the standard for equal pay for equal work.
- Fair Housing Act – protects against discriminatory acts in sales, rental, or finances in housing based on gender.
- Equal Credit Opportunity Act – guarantees credit applicants will not be judged on the basis of gender.
- Title IX of the Civil Rights Act – added in 1972 as an effort to require educational programs in respect to gender identification.
Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcomed sexual advance or request for a sexual favor, along with other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that affects a victim in his or her workplace. This includes actual or implied threats to employment status, denial of promotion, or cutting wages or hours in the event the victim does not submit to the sexual advances. Sexual harassment also includes instances when a coworker harasses an individual in such a way that it affects their ability to work or creates a hostile work environment.
Sexual harassment laws protect against two common forms of sexual harassment: quid pro quo; and behavior that creates a hostile work environment. A quid pro quo scenario typically involves an unwanted sexual advance by a manager or other supervisor towards another employee. Because the person making the advance is often in a position of authority over the victim, it may be understood, whether stated or implied, that submission to those advances will result in a better position, better pay, more hours, or other favorable aspect of employment status.
Sexual harassment can contribute to a hostile work environment when jokes, threats and other inappropriate behavior intimidate a worker in such a way that the victims is unable to perform their job duties, or feels unsafe or uncomfortable at the office. Both scenarios are considered illegal under state and federal laws.
Sometimes gender discrimination is based on one’s ideas of traditional gender roles or sexual stereotypes. When this is the case, management might assume the abilities and ambitions of one sex, while further assuming a person of the opposite sex does not share those same qualities. For example, a manager of an employee who becomes pregnant may try to phase the woman out of her current position, not because she is unsuited for the job, but because of the manager’s own biased opinion that a woman’s place is in the home. Another example is deciding not to hire women for high management positions, assuming they will not be able to achieve respect among the male employees.