GENDER EQUALITY AND DISCRIMINATION IN THE WORKPLACE « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


Employment sex or gender discrimination arises from treating male and female employees with comparable skills and in comparable jobs differently.  Personnel decisions must be made on the basis of skills and other job-related qualifications. Unless a person’s sex is a job requirement (e.g., locker room attendants in a sports club), choosing to hire, discipline, fire, train, promote or make any other major employment decision based on an individual’s gender is unlawful. Thus, for example:

  • Hiring/Firing/Promotions: With the exception of obvious examples such as locker room attendants or medical assistants, an employer should take care to avoid decisions to hire, fire or promote founded on a consideration that the company’s long-time clients might be more comfortable dealing with men or with women. Hair stylists or flight attendants are good illustrations. In such an instance, laying off an employee not of the supposedly preferred gender, but with a good track record and more seniority over co-workers of the other sex, could lead to trouble.
  • Pay: A company must pay female employees the same as their male counterparts working in similar positions with comparable work experience.  Thus, paying a newly-hired male employee more than a female employee who has worked longer at the same or similar position could also create a discrimination claim. See also, The Equal Pay Act.
  • Benefits: Employers must provide comparable health insurance benefits to all employees regardless of gender.  Of course, if available, pregnancy coverage only applies to females. However, if a business provides any sort of paid benefit to female workers to help cover newborn childcare, the company should also provide such benefits to male workers similarly caring for his child.

While the term “sexual harassment” is not found the text of “Title VII” (the nickname for United States Civil Rights Act of 1964), the federal (and state) courts have consistently held for decades that unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature are potentially forms of unlawful gender discrimination. Annoying sexually based conduct generally becomes unlawful sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment or is so intimidating, hostile or offensive that it unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance.

If management receives an employee complaint of sex/gender discrimination or observes an actual or possible gender-based discrimination or harassment situation, consultation with an attorney who specializes in employer representation is a good idea.