What Is Sex Discrimination?

In the eyes of the law, when an employee or job applicant is treated differently or less favorably because of their gender or because of their involvement with an organization that is associated with a particular sex, this is sex or gender discrimination.

Laws Against Sex Discrimination

In order for sex discrimination to be considered illegal, the discrimination must negatively impact the terms or conditions of employment which can include things such as:

  • Work Schedulingworkplace with sex discrimination
  • Shifts
  • Work Location
  • Salary
  • Promotions
  • Training Opportunities
  • Being Hired or Fired

There are several federal laws which specifically prohibit sex discrimination in the workplace. This includes:

Title VII Of The Civil Rights Act of 1964

This federal law was created so that employers can’t discriminate against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, or religion. Typically, this federal law applies to employers who have 15 or more employees.

Equal Pay Act Of 1963

Passed by John F. Kennedy, this act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act and states that no employer can pay men and women different salaries for similar work based on their sex.

In addition to these federal laws, New York has its own discrimination law:

New York State Human Rights Law

This state law applies to any employer with four or more employees and prohibits the employer from discriminating against an employee because of their sex, age, creed, color, race, sexual orientation, marital status, military status, domestic violence victim status, criminal or arrest record, disability, national origin, or predisposing genetic characteristics. In addition to this, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee or applicant because they filed a complaint or opposed an unlawful practice.

How Do I Know If I’m A Victim Of Sex Discrimination?

It’s not uncommon for an employee who is being discriminated against to be unsure of whether or not that discrimination is taking place. Below are examples of gender discrimination that may help you determine if you need to file a complaint:

Sex Discrimination & Promotions

A woman who has worked for a company for years has been denied promotions and the opportunity to advance, however, men who were hired after her with less experience are promoted.woman who was discriminated against for her gender

Sex Discrimination & Benefits

Women at a company are required to use their vacation and sick days if they become pregnant, however, other employees with temporarily debilitating health issues are provided with leave.


An example of stereotyping in the workplace is telling a female employee who otherwise meets all of her deadlines and does her job well, that she is too “aggressive” and lacking in femininity, however, men, who have similar personality traits are promoted and praised.

Sexual Harassment

Unwelcome advances during work, including sexual comments and physical contact,  which negatively impact the employee are illegal. Employers cannot threaten to fire or punish an employee if they fail to respond to these advances.

These are just a few examples of sex discrimination in the workplace and although each of these examples involves women being discriminated against, it’s important to remember that discrimination can happen to men too. If you believe you or a loved one are being discriminated against because of your sex, the best way to determine if you have a case is to contact a worker’s rights attorney.

What Can I Do If I’m Being Discriminated Against Because Of My Sex?

If you believe that you’ve been discriminated against, there are several steps you should take:

  1. Keep A Journal: Write down dates and notes about the places, times, and people who were involved in the discrimination. It’s also a good idea to include anyone who may have been a witness.
  2. Keep Copies Of All Records: Records might include performance reviews, text messages, emails, and even voicemails. If you report discrimination to your employer, make sure you do this in writing as well. It may also be a good idea, if possible, to keep a portfolio of your work.
  3. File A Complaint With The EEOC: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a federal agency which has been put in charge of handling any federal employment discrimination claims. A formal complaint can be filed with the EEOC and often in order to pursue legal action, this complaint must be filed first.
  4. File A Lawsuit: A discrimination lawsuit can provide the plaintiff with back pay, compensatory damages like emotional distress, and, in some cases, punitive damages which are given when the court wants to punish the employer for their actions. Compensation can also cover attorneys fees and court costs.