Is Sex Discrimination Different than Gender Discrimination?

What Is Sex-Based vs. Gender-Based Discrimination?

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sex-based discrimination occurs when someone (ex: employer or manager) treats another (ex: employee or applicant) unfavorably due to that person's sex. Sex discrimination includes discrimination based on someone's sexual orientation, gender identity, transgender status, and/or pregnancy. Workplace sex discrimination is illegal across the board. Gender discrimination is a type of sex-based discrimination.

Discrimination can occur in any employment scenario, including:

  • Hiring and the application process
  • Firing and layoffs
  • Job assignments
  • Promotions
  • Training
  • Fringe benefits
  • Employment terms and conditions

It's also worth noting that discrimination doesn't only occur between a manager and a direct report. It can involve supervisors, co-workers, employees from other departments or branches, and even include clients and customers.

Furthermore, a company's policies and practices may be inherently discriminatory, even if they apply to everyone. For example, If a policy negatively impacts people of a specific gender identity and that policy is not necessary to the business' operation, then it may be deemed discriminatory and therefore illegal.

Sex-Based Discrimination & Harassment

Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) discrimination can include discrimination in any aspect of employment. Additionally, SOGI discrimination is very closely related to SOGI harassment, which is also illegal. In fact, it is not uncommon for discrimination cases to also involve acts of sex- or gender-based harassment.

Examples of SOGI harassment can include:

  • Derogatory remarks made about someone's sexual orientation
  • Offensive jokes made about someone's sexual orientation
  • Disparaging comments made about someone's transgender status

According to the EEOC, harassment becomes illegal when it creates a hostile work environment or when it “results in an adverse employment decision.” This can mean when the harassment leads to someone being fired, demoted, or denied a position.

Sexual harassment continues to be an ongoing problem in the workplace. Review our blog to learn about one of the most common types of sexual harassment, quid pro quo harassment, and how to protect yourself should you experience it in the workplace.

Anti-Discrimination Laws in California

Sex discrimination is just one type of workplace discrimination. Other types can include age, race, disability, and pregnancy discrimination. If you are experiencing a hostile work environment and are the victim of workplace discrimination, you are not alone. Not only is workplace discrimination illegal, but you may be able to hold your employer accountable and receive compensation.

California has several anti-discrimination laws, including:

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
  • California Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA)
  • California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Equal Pay Act of 1963
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is the governing body responsible for enforcing California's anti-discrimination laws. When someone believes that they have been the victim of workplace discrimination (or have witnessed it occurring in their workplace), they can file a complaint with the DFEH. The DFEH will then investigate the situation and work towards settling the complaint.

Before filing a complaint with the DFEH, it is recommended that you speak with an attorney. An experienced lawyer can help you understand all of your options and guide you in selecting the right path.

Polaris Law Group has helped countless clients deal with workplace discrimination cases. We are prepared to use our experience to help you. Send us a message online to schedule a consultation.
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