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Confronting Employers Who Subscribe To Sexual And Pregnancy Discrimination

State and federal law prohibit the vast majority of employers from discriminating against employees or prospective employees on the basis of sex. Therefore, an employer may not make decisions as to hiring and firing, promotion, discipline, transfers, wages and benefits, work assignments and other terms, conditions or privileges of an individual’s employment because of the individual’s sex.

Employers today will rarely discriminate in an open and obvious manner. For example, if an employer fails to promote an employee because she is a woman, the employer will not typically acknowledge to the employee that she is being discriminated against on account of her sex. Our skilled attorneys at Shay, Santee, Kelhart & Deschler LLC in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, are prepared to help you.

Such Discrimination Should Not Be Tolerated

However, just because discrimination is not open and explicit does not mean that it does not exist. One way an employee can prove discrimination on the basis of sex is to show that other employees of the opposite sex who are similarly situated to the discriminated-against employee were treated differently. If you have suffered an adverse employment action, such as a discharge, and similarly-situated co-workers of the opposite sex who engaged in the same conduct were not discharged, you may have a discrimination claim against your employer.

The federal statute that prohibits sex discrimination is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The analogous state statute is the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

An employer cannot make employment decisions on the basis of traditional stereotypes relating to sex. For example, men have traditionally been the family’s primary breadwinner. An employer, therefore, might decide to pay a male employee more money than a similarly-situated and equally-qualified female employee on the ground that the man is likely the primary breadwinner in his family and the woman is not. This is unlawful sex-based discrimination. Even if the man were his family’s primary breadwinner and the woman was not, employers are not permitted to make decisions on the basis of such generalized and often outdated assumptions. Rather, employers’ decisions must be guided by their employees’ actual skills and qualifications.

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Female workers often suffer from wage discrimination whereby male workers earn more than their similarly-situated female co-workers. Frequently, the employer’s decision as to this unequal wage scale was made many years ago and, while the female employee has been promoted and has received wage increases in the ensuing years, the wage gap with respect to her male co-workers persists. Under a relatively new law known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which Congress passed in 2009, an act of discrimination occurs whenever an individual’s compensation is affected by the application of a discriminatory compensation decision or other discriminatory practice, including each time the individual receives compensation that is based in whole or part on such compensation decision or other practice. In other words, where a sex-based wage gap persists, an act of discrimination occurs every time the employee receives her paycheck, even though the wage scale that has caused the present wage gap was established years before and the employer has not engaged in any other acts of sex-based discrimination.

Notably, federal law also prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. Title VII defines “sex” so as to include “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” Thus, an employer may not discriminate against a pregnant employee simply because the employer believes that the employee’s pregnancy will impair her ability to perform her job.

Sex-based discrimination includes claims of sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims. These claims are among the most common sex-based discrimination claims brought by employees against their employers. Please see our separate section on Harassment/Hostile Work Environment for more information on this subject.

Schedule A Consultation With Us

If you believe you have suffered employment discrimination on the basis of your sex, call an employment law attorney at Shay, Santee, Kelhart & Deschler LLC in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, immediately to discuss your case. We can assist you in understanding your options and the strength of your case. Employees and prospective employees should be advised that there are strict and relatively short deadlines for filing a discrimination claim with the relevant state or federal agency. Do not lose your right to bring a claim and get the relief you deserve. Schedule an appointment or call 610-295-5328.