Sex Discrimination Article

Sex Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits covered employers of more than 15 employees from discriminating against employees and applicants because of sex with regard to hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment.

Sex discrimination is the unfavorable treatment of an individual because of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), pregnancy or pregnancy-related condition, or sex stereotypes.  Sex discrimination also includes harassment and sexual assault.  Discrimination may also occur when the victim and the perpetrator are both of the same sex.

Sexual orientation refers to an attraction to members of the same sex, opposite sex, somewhere in between, or none at all.  Gender identity refers to one’s self identification as a male, female, somewhere in between, or no gender at all.  Sex based stereotypes are preconceived ideas about certain groups based on sex and/or gender.

In addition to traditional sex discrimination, federal law also recognizes what is called "sex plus" discrimination.  This is when an employer discriminates against a subset of employees within a sex class (for example, unmarried women or single fathers).  Even if an employer does not discriminate against all men or women, it is still unlawful for an employer to treat a subclass of men or women differently from their peers.

Examples of Discrimination

  • Paying employees differently based on sex, regardless of qualifications and performance
  • Evaluating or scrutinizing performance based on sex
  • Applying rules to individuals based on sex
  • Promoting employees based on sex
  • Demonstrated preference for hiring based on sex
  • Excluding employees from professional and managerial positions based on sex
  • Unwelcome conduct due to an employee’s sex affecting work conditions

Even if a company has a written policy for its employees, its actual policy is determined by how consistently it enforces its terms and conditions of employment amongst its employees.

Hostile Work Environment (Harassment)

Title VII also prohibits the tolerance of a hostile work environment based on sex.  This is the unwelcome treatment of an employee due to sex that is frequent or severe enough to alter working conditions and create a demeaning or abusive atmosphere.  It is critical that you notify management of the harassment.  If possible, do so in writing and save a copy for documentation.  Once an employer knows about the hostile work environment, it is obligated to take effective action to stop it.

This unlawful conduct may include the use of slurs or name-calling, workplace graffiti, threats, inappropriate jokes or gestures, isolation, exclusion, work interference, undermining of authority, humiliation, or other mistreatment.  The harasser may be a supervisor, co-worker, contractor, or client.  The harasser may be of the same sex as well.


It is also unlawful to punish an employee for complaining to the employer about being discriminated against due to sex or opposing sex discrimination against another employee.  Title VII further prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for filing an EEOC discrimination charge, testifying or participating in an investigation about discrimination, assisting in an EEOC proceeding or lawsuit, or opposing employment practices that an employee reasonably believes discriminate against another individual in violation of the law.

Retaliation includes adverse actions such as demotions, disciplinary actions, terminations, and other forms of punishment that tend to dissuade employees from complaining about discrimination. For more information about legally protected activities and examples of unlawful retaliation, see Retaliation page.

Under Title VII and the Equal Pay Act, private sector employees must file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 calendar days of a discriminatory action.  You will forfeit important legal rights if you do not file a timely charge with the EEOC. If you’ve already missed a deadline, call to discuss your options.

The federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), amending the Fair Labor Standards Act, attempts to abolish the discriminatory wage gap between men and women. Specifically, employers are prohibited from paying lower wages to the opposite sex for equal work on jobs that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions. This covers all types of pay, including salary, overtime, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, allowances, travel reimbursement, and benefits.  Discrimination based on sex with regard to pay and benefits is also prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

In addition to federal law, the Wrongful Discharge Against Public Policy (WDPP) law of North Carolina prohibits covered employers from firing employees due to sex.  Because the deadline for filing a WDPP claim has fluctuated in recent years, it is recommended that claims be filed without delay.  (See Wrongful Termination page)

If you’ve been subjected to sex discrimination, contact Rich Daugherty.  Whether your employment has been wrongfully terminated, you’re in fear of losing your job unlawfully, or you’re stuck in an untenable situation, contact Rich.

In addition to litigating cases, Rich negotiates confidential severance agreements and executive exit agreements favorable to his clients.

Rich offers a one-on-one relationship with his clients. He will stand by your side every step of the way to resolve your case fairly.

Rich represents clients from across North Carolina, including Raleigh, Durham, Wilmington, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, and more. He is available to meet with prospective clients outside of Chapel Hill when circumstances permit. Evening appointments are also available.

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