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Federal laws are enforced by the U.S. Employment Equal Opportunity Commission to ensure that women are protected from gender-based discrimination in the workplace. This discrimination can come in the form of sexual harassment, withholding promotions based on gender, giving a different job title to a woman and preventing women from participating in training opportunities. The results discrimination against females in the workplace can include diminished company revenue, high employee turnover, low morale and reduced productivity.
Pregnancy and Family
A woman might attempt to conceal a pregnancy for fear of being passed over for a promotion due to the 12 weeks leave-time to which she is entitled to under the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Similarly, a pregnant woman might choose not to disclose her condition during an interview because of the assumption that she will be unable to work long hours after her baby is born. In addition, some women face care-giving discrimination. For example, if a supervisor learns that a woman is the primary caregiver to an ailing parent, he may assume the situation has compelled the woman to divert attention from work and find reasons to fault her performance.
In some instances, a female is the victim of discrimination because of her clothing or physical appearance. An employer might hire an attractive woman over other qualified candidates simply because he believes she is likely to bring in more sales. In contrast, that same woman might not get hired because the employer is afraid of a sexual harassment law suit based on the number of males in the workplace. As of 2010, transgender females are protected under the same laws as females.
If a woman does not appear physically capable, she may not get promoted or hired for jobs requiring physical strength. For example, a female firefighter might lose out on advancement opportunities be she appears weaker than her male colleagues, while a female warehouse worker stays stuck in her position because the more extensive jobs require more physical labor. This is is a form of discrimination because the employer is making assumptions based strictly on gender without giving her the opportunity to complete strength and endurance tests.
A woman who has the same job title as a man, has the same level of seniority and equal responsibilities, but is paid less, is being discriminated against. According to a wage-gap study by the U.S. Department of Labor, women earn on average 79 percent of what men earn. If caught, employers can be sued under provisions of the The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and might be required to pay fines and issue back-pay.
Consequences to Employers
A female who believes she has been the victim of discrimination should document her findings and immediately contact human resources. She can also file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which will investigate the claim and decide how to proceed. If the EEOC does not find any wrong-doing, it will close the case and give the female employee 90 days to bring legal action on her own.
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Sex-Based Discrimination
- Transgender Law and Policy Institute: Employment Discrimination Protection for Transgender People in California
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: The Equal Pay Act of 1963
- CV Tips: Gender Discrimination at the Office - How to Recognize the Signs
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Unlawful Discrimination Based on Pregnancy and Caregiving Responsibilities Widespread Problem, Panelists Tell EEOC
Based in Los Angeles, Lisa Finn has been writing professionally for 20 years. Her print and online articles appear in magazines and websites such as "Spa Magazine," "L.A. Parent," "Business," the Famous Footwear blog and many others. She also ghostwrites for mompreneurs and business owners who appear regularly on shows such as Ricki Lake, HGTV, Carson Daly and The Today Show.
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