How to Handle Gender-Based Harassment in the Workplace

While we, as an American society, have made great strides in the fight for gender equality, there are still some significant concerns regarding gender-based harassment in the workplace.

In fact, as of 2017, approximately 42 percent of women working outside the home reported experiencing some form of discrimination based on their gender. We commonly think of gender-based harassment as sexual innuendos, however this type of harassment may actually expand well beyond the borders that belief imposes. The women who participated in a study conducted by the Pew Research Center specified their harassment in a variety of ways, including lesser pay rates than their male counterparts for doing the exact same job, being treated as though they were incompetent with no experiential evidence for that belief to be based upon, receiving less support from upper management than their male counterparts, and being denied for a promotion or job solely based on their gender, regardless of their education, experience, and expertise.

If you are feeling as though you may be experiencing gender-based harassment in the workplace, you should first be aware of, and fully understand what gender-based harassment is and the laws at both a state and federal level which protect you and your rights in this situation.

What is gender-based harassment?

Gender-based harassment is the act of treating a person unfairly or unfavorable solely based on their gender. In the workplace, this may be at any stage of employment, including decisions made regarding the employee or potential employee during the hiring process, throughout the time of employment, or the process of termination. Decisions made regarding the employee throughout the time of employment which may be considered harassment include pay rate, job assignments, potential promotions, level and quality of training, or any other condition of employment. The harasser may be the employee’s supervisor; however, it may also be a co-worker, or even a client or customer of the company.

Simple teasing, offhand comments, and isolated incidents may not be considered harassment by law, but it may become harassment if these experiences become severe and frequent enough that it creates a hostile and offensive work environment. This may even affect more people than only the employee at which these actions are being directed if other employees are forced to witness these actions so often that it creates an offensive work environment for them as well.

What are some examples of gender-based harassment?

Gender-based harassment may occur at any stage of employment, including hiring, throughout employment, and firing. While no two experiences of harassment are exactly the same, there are several examples of incidents which may be considered harassment.

The denial of a job

If you applied for a job in a field in which you have competent education, several years of experience, or perhaps even a level of expertise, yet you are not hired because the company’s clients, vendors, or upper management are more comfortable working with men than women, you may have experienced gender-based harassment and discrimination at the hiring stage.

The inability to apply or interview for a job based on an unfair condition of employment.

Perhaps you apply for a job for which the job description states there are certain conditions of employment which seem unfair or unnecessary to adequately perform the job. If you are qualified in every other aspect for this job and this seemingly unnecessary qualification is also prohibiting other women from being considered for the job, you may have experienced gender-based harassment due to an unfair condition of employment.

The denial of a promotion

If you have the necessary experience to be considered for a promotion, but you are passed over for the promotion of a male counterpart with less experience, you may have experienced gender-based harassment and discrimination.

The termination of employment

If your employment was terminated and you were told that the company was simply downsizing and there was no other reason which contributed to your layoff, however your male counterparts are not laid off, you may have experienced gender-based harassment and discrimination at the termination stage of employment.

Being excluded from meetings or work social gatherings

If the males in a company are able to meet and make decisions without female colleagues present, it could be considered a part of a hostile work environment.

Offensive comments and ridicule

One of the most common types of harassment are comments that are hostile, offensive or ridicule other employees.   Stereotypical comments about the female gender or associating certain negative traits with female employees can also create a hostile work environment.

What laws protect me from gender-based harassment?

There are several laws at both the state and federal level which protect employees from gender-based harassment in the workplace. First and foremost, employees who promote or allow this type of harassment are in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is often referred to simply as “Title VII”. This law protects employees from harassment based on a variety of identifiers, including age, race, ethnicity, religion, and gender. Title VII applies to all employers operating within the United States of America, including private employers, state and local government agencies, employment agencies, and any employer-union apprenticeship program which employs more than 14 people.

At the state level, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects employees from discrimination in the workplace based on their gender. Similar to Title VII, this law applies to all private employers, state and local government agencies, and employment agencies which employ more than five people.

I’ve been harassed based on my gender. What do I do next?

If you believe that you have been harassed in the workplace based on your gender, you may want to consider hiring an attorney who is educated, experienced, and passionate about employment law. Your lawyer will be able to help explain the ways in which your employer has violated your rights as an employee and will also be able to assist you in navigating this often confusing and overwhelming experience of filing a lawsuit against your employer for gender-based harassment.

At V. James DeSimone Law, we believe that you deserve to be treated fairly based on your abilities to adequately perform your job. Our legal team has achieved substantial monetary settlements and successfully attained ground breaking jury verdicts for our clients. We are confident that we will be able to do the same for you and your case. Gender-based discrimination is a serious matter and taking legal action can be a stressful and emotional experience. Entrust your case to our educated, experienced, and passionate employment law attorneys to protect yourself and your employment. Contact us today at (310) 693-5561 for a consultation of your case.

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