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A woman's rights are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that an employer cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In addition, when a woman is pregnant, her rights are also protected by The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978. Under PDA, it is unlawful for interviewers to ask pregnancy-related questions, such as if a woman has child care lined up for when the baby is born. But even with these laws in place, statistics from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission state that 30,356 gender-based discrimination claims were made in 2012.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act states that an employer must modify tasks for a pregnant woman who needs special accommodations or alternative assignments while pregnant, such as office work instead of physical labor. However, some employers might view such accommodations as a hassle or a work flow disruption, and refuse to hire an otherwise qualified candidate. In addition, it is illegal for prospective employers to ask a woman anything pregnancy-related, such as "Do you plan on starting a family soon?"
If an employer hires an attractive female over another candidate with more experience and better credentials, this is considered interview discrimination. The employer is hiring based on the fact that one woman's looks will bring in more business or fit better into the company culture. In addition, sexual discrimination during an interview includes an employer making sexually charged comments, sexual orientation jokes or asking for sexual favors in exchange for the job, for example.
It is discrimination if an employer refuses to hire a woman returning from the armed services, for example, because he fears her emotional state may be disruptive to the team. As it is if an employer chooses to only interview men for a warehouse distribution job because he thinks a woman cannot handle the heavy lifting. Another example of unlawful discrimination, covered under the Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, is an employer refusing to hire a woman with an impairment, such as someone wearing hearing aids, for fear that she might miss important meeting details.
Telling a woman versus a man, in an interview, a different starting salary for the same job is considered unlawful, according to the Equal Pay Act. An employer is not allowed to reduce pay based on a woman's gender when she possesses the same skills, and would have identical job responsibilities and working conditions of male candidates.
When an older interviewer sits across the desk from a much-younger job candidate, he may be tempted to discriminate based on age-related differences. According to Brad Karsh, President of Chicago-based JB Training Solutions, a company that works with employers to enhance business skills, younger women are often discriminated against in a workplace that lacks diversity. "Generational prejudices add to interview discrimination," explains Karsh. "Baby Boomers who resist change often judge younger applicants as unprepared for the workforce, immature and acting entitled."
Filing a Claim
When a woman feels she has been the victim of interview discrimination, she should immediately file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC will investigate the complaint and see if there is grounds for a discrimination case. If so, they will bring about legal action. If the commission can not successfully prove the prospective employer discriminated in the interview, it will close the case and give the candidate 90 days to file a personal lawsuit.
- Lawyers Committee: Statement of Senator Tom Harkin Introducing the Fair Pay Act of 2011
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination Questions and Answers
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Charge Statistics FY 1997 Through FY 2012
- JB Training Solutions; President Brad Karsh; Chicago, Illinois
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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