Sexism in the workplace is not easy for employees to discuss. While many cases of sexism are obvious, many are not and employees question their instincts. Or, employees do recognize it, but fear that they will lose their job if they report it. We provide five sexism examples, what to do about it and your legal rights.
What Is Sexism?
Sexism is discrimination against a person’s sex or gender. It is the perception that women and men have different skills just because of their sex or gender. At work, sexism is everywhere – the recruitment process, performance reviews, benefits, pay, terminations and more.
Common Sexism Examples
1. You Were Overlooked For A Management Position
Throughout history, women have struggled with equality in the workplace. While there has been significant improvement over the years, women are still overlooked for management jobs. If you find yourself in this position, you should evaluate the situation with unbiased eyes. Did the male employee who received the promotion earn it? Are you really the better employee for the position? If you are definitely the better employee for the job and it is obvious that you would have received the job if you were male, it may be time to think about filing a sexual discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and to contact an employment attorney.
However, if it is not so obvious and just more of a gut feeling, you should speak with your employer before deciding to file a complaint. If you file a complaint and your employer has proof that the promoted employee was well-deserving of the position, the complaint may be dismissed and it may become an uncomfortable work environment.
Meet with your boss to address your concerns and to discuss your future with the company. It is important to not show your animosity toward the hired employee, but to make it known that you want a management position. It is okay to ask what you could have done better to have earned the position. Setting goals and meeting those goals will make it harder for your boss to pass you up for the next management position. You should also meet with human resources to discuss your goals. The more people know about your desire to be in management, the better off you are.
2. Your Boss Or Coworker Made A Sexist Comment Or Joke
Sexist comments and jokes are demeaning and degrading. Remarks about a man or women based purely on their sex or gender is harassment and can be illegal. These comments can be anything from an inappropriate statement about a person’s body (i.e. you have nice legs – you should wear a shorter skirt) or gender stereotypical nicknames (i.e. honey, sweetie, etc.). Jokes can also come in many forms. They can be said in person, by images through email, social media posts of a sexual nature, or sexual gifts.
Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted). If you occasionally receive comments, call the employee out on their behavior. Let them know that the comments or jokes make you feel uncomfortable and ask that they stop. If they continue, speak to your boss and/or human resources to let them know that you find the comments inappropriate. If the comments continue and management or human resources do not intervene, it may be time to report the harassment.
3. You Have To Do A Specific Task Because Of Your Sex
Stereotypical roles show up in the workplace when a woman or man is assigned a job based on their sex. For example, when there is a lunch meeting, it is expected that the women order and set up the food. Or, if something needs to be organized, a woman is chosen because it is thought she would do a better job than a man. If the task you are assigned does not fall within your job description, or you are not asked to do something because of your sex or gender, you need to speak up. Keep track of all the times you were discriminated against and speak with your manager or human resources. If conditions do not change, it may be time to look for a new job. You have a right to file a complaint, but depending on the severity, it may not be worth your time.
4. You Were Called “Too Bossy” or “Emotional Because It’s That Time Of The Month”
Gender labeling is most commonly seen when a woman is considered too assertive and called “bossy.” Or, on the opposite end, she voices her opinions and is considered too emotional. Her boss or peers may say that it is her time of the month or to “man up.” This is similar to when a coworker makes a sexist comment or joke and is a form of harassment. You need to speak up and report the behavior to your boss and/or human resources. One comment is not enough to file a complain with the EEOC, but if the behavior is ongoing and creates a hostile work environment, it should be seriously considered.
5. You Get Paid Less
This is a pretty easy concept. If your salary is less than a male counterpart and you are doing the same or similar job, it is discrimination. It is illegal. The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work. All forms of pay are covered by this law, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits.
In order to prove discrimination based on pay, you must show that your male counterpart is performing the same or very similar duties as you and that his pay is higher. While job duties and responsibilities are more transparent, other employees’ salaries can be difficult to discover. The easiest way to discover salary is to discuss it amongst co-workers. Most employers do not voluntarily provide the information.
Under the Equal Pay Act, you do not have to file a complaint with the EEOC. You can go directly to court. If you know that a male counterpart with the same or similar job is being paid more, you should immediately contact an employment attorney. Title VII also makes it illegal to discriminate based on sex in pay and benefits. An employee who has an Equal Pay Act claim may also have a claim under Title VII. To file a claim under Title VII, click here.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. It provides general information and is not intended and should not be construed as professional advice. The author is not your attorney, accountant, financial planner or any other professional and no professional-client relationship is created. We do not represent that the information provided is accurate or up-to-date as laws and regulations are always changing. If you have an issue that requires professional help, you should contact the appropriate professional to help you on your specific set of facts. Please read the Terms and Conditions for additional information.