Women working face tough challenges in the workplace. Sex discrimination is becoming more prevalent, and determining the correct course of action and what your protections are can be tricky. Yet, women have the absolute right to work free of discrimination, harassment and retaliation at work, and when those rights are violated, women also have the right to hold their employers accountable.
Though it is not easy to pin down the top employment discrimination issues for working women in the U.S., the following is a short list of some of the most important and challenging topics facing today’s working women.
Sexual Harassment In the Workplace
The days of Anita Hill hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee may be over, but sexual harassment in the workplace is most definitely not. The problem is, women rarely report it in most instances, sometimes because they don’t know for sure what they’re experiencing is illegal and defined as sexual harassment and other times because they are afraid of retaliation even though their complaints are protected.
Sexual harassment is described in the legal world under to different types: quid pro quo and hostile environment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome sexual conduct is made a condition of employment. Hostile environment takes place when unwelcome sexual conduct is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile work environment interfering with job performance.
Both types of sexual harassment are actionable under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which also prohibits employer retaliation against employees who file a charge of sexual harassment with the EEOC or a claim in court (or participate in court proceedings involving accusations of sexual harassment).
Pregnancy discrimination is also one of the top issues for women workers. Getting pregnant in today’s working world, rather than being a celebratory occasion, is often times a scary time for working women as they know it could cost her job or a well-earned promotion. Despite the law saying those kinds of decisions are illegal, employers still take action.
According to Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not only is it illegal to discriminate against pregnant women at work, employers must also accommodate the pregnancy unless doing so would create an unfair burden on the business.
Sexual Orientation Discrimination
LGBT rights have been expanding, but, there is still much improvement to be made in the area of employment discrimination. Lawmakers and LGBT activists alike have pushed for several years for a federal law that would outright prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Obvious Wage Gap
Men make twenty one percent more than women in the in the workplace. The gender wage gap is more commonly expressed as the percentage outcome from dividing the median annual salary of men by the median annual salary of women across the country. Each year, rather than closing the wage gender gap, income differences between men and women don’t seem to be improving very significantly.
Many have different explanations for the obvious wage gap in this country which include:
1) the extra childrearing responsibilities for women as the main driving force
2) Childrearing and child care often lead to more absences and late shows for work
and 3) maternity leave may contribute to the lapse in earning potential for women.
Pregnancy can be an enormous issue for some employers who see it as setback and use it a reason to push a woman out of her job by criticizing her performance thus discriminating against women in terms of compensation, promotions, termination and even hiring.
Glass Ceiling also known as Sex Discrimination
Last but not least, is the notorious glass ceiling, which comes to mind in almost all discussions about women employees in the United States. A glass ceiling, the reference to the repeated difficulties women face in breaking into all-male circles of authority and leadership, often boils down to acts of sex discrimination which are prohibited under federal and state laws.
The tricky part is for women workers is how to prove that glass ceiling challenges actually meet the threshold for sex discrimination. Another issue is, most working women who experience these challenges are reluctant to bring such cases to court because 1) they do not know what they are experiencing is illegal and 2) they are worried about retaliation after their complaints. However, Title VII applies to sex discrimination in all areas of employment, including hiring, firing, compensation and promotions, so taking steps to hold employers accountable is not a waste of time.
Women Must Face These Issues Head On
Women make up a significant part of the workforce. Yet, issues like the gender wage gap and sexual harassment in the workplace present seemingly unavoidable challenges for women workers striving to overcome the obstacles associated with their gender. It’s crucial that women become aware of their rights in the workplace and are prepared to stand up for themselves to fight against any illegal behavior on behalf of their employers.
If you feel that you are being subjected to any form of employment discrimination in the workplace then you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in labor law immediately. The laws governing employment disputes are complex. There are strict regulations governing the process for filing a lawsuit. Furthermore, there are strict time restrictions, known as statute of limitations, as to when a lawsuit can be filed. The experienced attorneys at Shegerian Conniff are ready to hold your employer accountable, fight for your legal rights, and seek justice. Click here to contact us today or call us at 310-322-7500 for a free consultation.