What Is Gender Discrimination In The Workplace?

What Is Gender Discrimination In The Workplace

Despite the progress that has been made over the past decades regarding gender equality in the workplace, some businesses still have a long way to go. According to a survey done by the Pew Research Center, four in ten working women (42%) in the United States claim they have faced discrimination on the job because of their gender. According to this analysis, women have reported a wide range of experiences, ranging from earning less than their male counterparts for performing the same job to being skipped over for important assignments. However, although sex discrimination has been predominantly an issue for women, men can also be victims of this form of discrimination. 

Sex or gender discrimination in the workplace involves treating a person unfavorably because of their sex, whether they are applying for the job or are a current employee. Some examples of such discrimination are being treated poorly for being a woman or a man, or being subjected to gender stereotyping (for example, discriminating against a woman by assuming she will solely take on their familial responsibilities or discriminating against a man by assuming they will not have the same domestic duties because he is not the primary caretaker). 

If you think that you, or someone you know, have been experiencing gender discrimination in the workplace but are unsure what qualifies as such, this article can help as it provides a general overview of the matter.

What is Considered a Gender Discrimination in the Workplace?

Gender discrimination in the workplace happens when an employer treats a potential candidate or current employee poorly because of his or her gender. This workplace discrimination also includes unfavorable treatment because of gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Gender discrimination can happen while hiring, firing, in determining raises and promotions, in determining pay and benefits, and when an employer or employee creates a hostile work environment because of gender harassment. Any form of gender-based workplace discrimination violates federal, state, and local laws. 

Although sex and gender are used interchangeably, gender discrimination pertains to traits culturally associated with male or female identity, while sex pertains to anatomical identity. Gender discrimination can happen, for instance, when an employee identifies as transgender, and their employer or manager allows the employee to be harassed by colleagues due to their identification. Similarly, gender discrimination can occur when a qualified worker is not promoted because they are gay, and the employer has gay stereotypes. Firing an employee due to their gender transition can also constitute gender discrimination.

What Are Some Examples of Discrimination in the Workplace?

Gender discrimination in the workplace comes in many forms. Aside from already mentioned examples, here are some other forms of unlawful gender discrimination that people, mostly women, may face:

  • Hiring/Promotions/Firing – A person applies for the job for which they have experience and exceptional qualifications, but they are not hired because the company’s clients prefer dealing with men; A female employee is told they are being laid off due to cutbacks and reorganization, while men in the same position and with less seniority are able to keep their job; A female employee has been working for the company for years, receiving amazing reviews and/or employee-of-the-year awards, yet every time she applies for the promotion the position she applies for is taken by less qualified man.
  • Salary – A female employee has worked her way up in the company and is now a top salesperson for her organization. She finds out that a male employee with similar training and work experience has been recently hired and will be paid more than her. She is moved to a less desirable work territory while a male employee with lower sales numbers is given her territory and client base.
  • Job Classification – A woman who has worked for years in the company, putting in many hours of overtime, returns from having a baby and says to her employer she cannot put in as many hours of overtime as before. Her position is then changed to a lower level, and with it, she gets paid a lot less. In contrast, male employees in the same position are allowed to cut back their overtime for personal reasons without being demoted or their salary reduced.
  • Benefits – A company’s health insurance policy does not cover a spouse of a female employee because of the assumption that he has his own benefits, while male employees have their spouses covered by the policy. 

Which Federal and State Laws Cover Sex or Gender Discrimination?

Title VII is a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin, and gender. The act does not explicitly include language to protect people of other sexual orientations or other gender identities. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the EEOC) includes gender identity and sexual orientation as characteristics that are protected and encompassed by the prohibition against gender discrimination. Federal law also prohibits pregnancy discrimination, which is considered a form of gender discrimination.

The state of New York and New York City laws also prohibit gender discrimination. In accordance with the Human Rights Law, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against its employee or potential candidate because of their gender or sexual orientation. Under the New York City Human Rights Law, it is illegal to discriminate against anyone on the basis of gender, gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation. Under this law, it is also unlawful to discriminate based on an employee’s pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical condition. Employers that are covered are required to provide reasonable accommodations for their pregnant employees’ needs.

It is important to note that sexual harassment is also a form of gender discrimination that is also prohibited. Like any other form of discrimination, sexual harassment can be either quid pro quo (this for that) harassment or hostile workplace harassment. The ‘sexual harassment’ term is considered to include the harassment of people from the LGBTQ+ community.


New York’s employment laws were created so that everyone may be considered equal. Unfortunately, discrimination and bias in the workplace still predominate the workforce. The law is broken when a person is fired or demoted due to their gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Being discriminated against because of gender is extremely unfair. No one should suffer from such hostility. The law is written to ensure equal treatment, equal pay, and equal opportunity. If you, or someone you know, is going through such an ordeal, it is time to take action.

To find out whether you have a workplace gender discrimination case worth pursuing, contact Cilenti & Cooper today. We treat every case with the attention and care it deserves and can fight for your civil rights from beginning to end. We offer a free consultation to all of our prospective clients, so you have nothing to lose.



Let us fight to recover the wages you have earned.

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