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Gender Discrimination

Discrimination based on gender (or sex) is a common civil rights violation that takes many forms, including sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and unequal pay for women who do the same jobs as men. Unfortunately, most U.S. women are all too familiar with all of these inequalities. This section offers in-depth information on unlawful gender and sex discrimination in a number of settings -- including employment and education -- and provides links to key federal laws and U.S. Supreme Court decisions related to gender and sex discrimination. Gender discrimination laws also protect the rights of transgender individuals. Read the articles below to learn how to identify and protect you against gender based discrimination.

Gender Discrimination: Federal Laws

As with race, the United States still has work to do with respect to discrimination on the basis of one's gender. This type of discrimination generally impacts women, who typically earn less and are promoted less often than their male counterparts. Certain federal laws have attempted to level the playing field, including the following:

  • Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII - Prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of gender
  • Equal Credit Opportunity Act - Prohibits discrimination against credit applicants on the basis of gender
  • Fair Housing Act - Prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing based on gender
  • Equal Pay Act of 1963 - Requires equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender
  • Family and Medical Leave Act - Employees given the right to take time off from work for an illness or to care for an ill family member
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act - Prohibits discrimination against women who are pregnant, perceived to be pregnant, or who plan to become pregnant
  • Title IX - Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, added in 1972, requires parity among educational programs with respect to gender

Sexual Harassment: Overview

Sexual harassment is considered a form of sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as follows:

"Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment."

There are two main types of sexual harassment. Quid pro quo involves someone in an authority role requesting sexual favors in exchange for some benefit, either stated or merely implied, such as a wage increase or protection from getting laid off. The other type of harassment is that which results in a "hostile work environment," such as when jokes, threats, or other inappropriate behavior intimidates the victim and affects his or her ability to work.

Pregnancy Discrimination: The Basics

Women historically have seen lower wages, fewer advancement opportunities, and experience more workplace discrimination in general than their male counterparts. Since only women can get pregnant, discrimination on the basis of pregnancy (or even just the prospect of getting pregnant), it is a gender issue in the eyes of the law. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from basing most employment decisions, such as hiring and health benefits, on pregnancy status. And when women take leave to give birth and care for a newborn, employers must hold those job openings for as long as they would if she were taking leave for an illness.

Click on a link below for more detailed information about gender discrimination in the areas of employment, education, and public accommodation.

Learn About Gender Discrimination