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The law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of their sex. Both male and female employees are protected by this law.
However, an employer generally may make employment decisions based on gender if it is reasonably necessary for normal business operations. For example, a theatre may hire only female actors to play female characters. Employment decisions based on stereotypes of men and women—rather than reasonable necessity—are impermissible. For example, an employer cannot refuse to consider female applicants for jobs that men have traditionally performed, and vice versa.
Pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment are also forms of sex discrimination.
Unfortunately, recent studies indicate that gender and sex discrimination is on the rise in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed an increasing number of charges for sex based discrimination over the past several years: 23,094 charges in 2004 and 28,372 charges in 2008.
Another report indicates that gender discrimination was the reason for 10% more of the lawsuits filed against employers in 2005 than it was in 2003 (In 2003, 38% of lawsuits filed claimed gender discrimination, while 48% of lawsuits filed in 2005 were based on gender discrimination.) Additional research shows that women continue to earn less money relative to men for the same work. According to the National Women’s Law Center, in 2008, women who worked full-time throughout the year earned only 77 cents per dollar earned by their male counterparts. On a more optimistic note, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act almost immediately after taking office in January 2009, which expands the length of time during which women may file equal pay claims under federal law.
Employees should be treated fairly regardless of sex. Nichols Kaster continues to be on the forefront of the effort to remedy past discrimination and prevent further inequities in the treatment of female employees. For more information about these issues, see the following websites:
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