What is sex or gender discrimination?

posted by Daniel Stevens  |  Mar 7, 2019 4:13 PM [EST]  |  applies to California

Employment Lawyer


In general, there are certain types of people or people with certain characteristics who are protected by the law when it comes to discrimination in the workplace.  There are state and federal laws in employment law that prohibits discrimination against particular individuals or particular characteristics of an individual such as age, race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, military status, pregnancy, sex, and gender.  Depending on the circumstances, an employee or applicant may be a victim of gender or sex discrimination in the workplace.  Although gender and sex are terms that are used interchangeably, they are different and these differences can be demonstrated when it comes to identifying how an employee or applicant was discriminated against in the workplace. An Employment Lawyer is the type of lawyer an employee or applicant should contact on matters regarding sex or gender discrimination.


The basics


Although an individual’s sex or gender seem to be simple concepts, there is a difference between the two and it is important to understand those differences especially when it comes to discrimination.


What does a person’s “sex” mean?  The sex of an individual pertains to their biology. This means sex is the biological differences in males and females such as hormones and genitalia.  On the more scientific side, females have two X chromosomes while males have an X and a Y.  This is not a subtle difference because the Y in the male chromosomes is what causes an embryo to develop testes. In some cases, however, some males can have 2-3 Xs while some women can have a Y. 


What is the difference between sex and gender?  An individual’s gender is less scientific and based more on a society and its social and cultural norms. The gender of an individual is based more on what a particular society believes to be feminine and masculine and how that society perceives what is male and what is female.  More specifically, gender is what society has built to believe what roles a male has and what roles a female has in their society.  This is why it is known that gender is usually described as a result of social constructs. Gender is based more on an individual’s appearance rather than what sex the individual was assigned to when they were born. 


The basics of the differences between sex and gender are important to understanding in order to know if and when an individual was discriminated against in the workplace.  For further guidance on this area of law, contact an Employment Lawyer who has handled and been successful in discrimination cases.


What does it mean to be a victim of discrimination?


As mentioned previously, there are certain classes of people and characteristics protected by the law.  When it comes to gender or sex specifically, an employee may be protected under the law from discrimination.  Although an employee is “protected” this merely means that the law prohibits these employees or applicants from being discriminated against and provides rights for those employees or applicants to have the right to sue an employer if they are discriminated against.  The laws do not guarantee prevention of discrimination from actually occurring.   With this in mind, an employee or applicant should know how and in what ways they may become a victim of gender or sex discrimination. 


Discrimination can be exercised in many ways.  An employee or applicant who is being discriminated against may experience treatment from a manager or employer that is negative and different compared to the way other employees or applicants are treated.  The negative treatment would be considered illegal and discriminatory if it targeted the individual based on a class or characteristic the law recognizes as protected. Treatment that is identified as discriminatory would be if the employee or applicant was called names, teased, singled out, or called inappropriate nicknames.  Even if a supervisor or other employees claim the teasing was not ill-intended, it is still considered discriminatory when it is based on the individual belonging to a protected class or possessing a protected characteristic. Other treatment that is considered discriminatory would be if the employee was denied employee benefits, was passed up for any promotion opportunities, was denied training that would lead to a promotion or even a demotion.  Some employees may even be subjected to reduced pay or reduced hours. 


If an employee or applicant was being discriminated against based on their sex, the employee would be singled out because of their sex. For example, George may apply for a job and during the interview, the employer may tell George that the company does not favor male applicants because they prefer female applicants.  Another example would be if Tara was picked on at work by her boss and was constantly subjected to his sexist jokes about women, and he also only picked on the other female employees but not the male employees.  Those two examples may give rise to a sex discrimination claim because it involves an applicant and an employee being treated adversely based on their sex. 


An employee who is suffering from gender discrimination may be subjected to adverse treatment based on their gender.  More specifically, an employee may be teased or ostracized because they do not fit within the gender roles that their employer or coworkers follow.  For example, Greg, a male nurse, may be picked on and teased by his female supervisor because he is not “masculine” enough to be a doctor. Here, Greg is being singled out based on his gender and therefore may have a claim against his employer for gender discrimination.


If an employee or applicant feels that he or she has become a victim of gender or sex discrimination, he or she should call an Employment Lawyer to discuss the details of their case. Whether it is a current employee being teased by their coworkers or an applicant who was recently denied employment based on their perceived gender, the employee or applicant should speak with an employment lawyer to receive further information on whether he or she has a case against an employer or organization for discrimination. 

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