Sex discrimination is common in many areas of life, including the workplace. Sex discrimination involves treating a job applicant or employee unfavorably because of that person’s sex. Sex includes sexual orientation, transgender status, gender identity, and pregnancy.
Sex discrimination can include many things, such as the following:
Sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination. It may encompass many types of conduct, such as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, massages, hugs, sexual assault, or rape. Sexual harassment can also consist of verbal conduct, such as talking about sex or telling vulgar jokes. It can be visual in nature and include pornography, pictures, or sexual gestures. Sexual harassment may also include unwanted communication, such as text messages, emails, or social media posts.
Sexual harassment does not need not target you specifically. It can target someone or just be general in nature, such as a picture of a couple having sex. This conduct is illegal regardless of the harasser’s intention, even if it was meant to be a joke or compliment.
Sexual harassment in the workplace does not have to be perpetrated only by your boss or manager. Co-workers, subordinates, customers, vendors, or consultants can also engage in sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment does not have to be “sexual” in nature to be illegal. Sexual harassment can include belittling statements, a policy against a specific gender, or a hostile environment against males or females. It could also include hostility directed at you because of your sexual orientation or gender identity. Maybe you don’t look or act like your gender. Or maybe you are being harassed because you are pregnant or breastfeeding. This is illegal, regardless of the gender of the perpetrator and victim. They can be of the same sex or of different sexes.
It is also important to know that not all situations are considered sexual harassment.
Simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious and do not reoccur usually will not be considered unlawful. Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent, widespread, or severe that it affects your job, unreasonably interferes with your work performance, or creates a work environment that is intimidating, hostile, or objectively offensive.
A woman can also face discrimination and harassment while she is pregnant. Pregnancy discrimination involves unfavorable treatment of a woman due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. Federal law forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to hiring, pay, job assignments, training, promotions, firing, layoff, and other conditions of employment.
Examples of pregnancy-related workplace discrimination include:
An employer may not single out a worker due to pregnancy-related conditions. However, if there are specific policies in place, such as the requirement to submit a doctor’s statement concerning one’s ability to work before granting leave or sick benefits, employees must submit such statements.
If you are being sexually harassed in the workplace, make sure you take the proper steps to end the harassment and hold your employer liable for their actions. If you feel comfortable doing so, ask the harasser to stop the conduct. If the harassment continues, check with your workplace’s procedures for filing a complaint. If your employer has no anti-harassment policies in place, talk to your supervisor or human resources department.
You’ll need as much information as possible about the incidents. Keep a record of the harassment and other negative treatment you experience while at work. Take notes about what happened, what was said or done, who did the harassment, who was present, where you were, and when the incident occurred. It may be helpful to text or email yourself as a way to get a time and date stamp; just refrain from using your work computer or company email. Use your personal resources to take these notes.
Do not be afraid to speak up about what is happening. You may be scared or embarrassed. You may be worried about getting punished by your employer or even getting fired. However, do know that retaliation is illegal. If your employer does take action against you, you can sue them. Plus, you need to tell your employer about the discrimination or harassment right away or else you may be barred from taking legal action in the future. Your employer is legally required to investigate the harassment and take measures to stop it.
Keep in mind that harassers in the workplace may have multiple victims. Therefore, you may want to talk to your co-workers and see if any of them have also been harassed. Coming forward to your employer as a group may help you feel safer and more comfortable.
If you complain to your employer and nothing changes, your last resort may be to file a lawsuit.
Discuss your case with an attorney who specializes in employment law.
Unfortunately, sex discrimination and harassment are common in many workplaces. Make sure you understand your legal rights so you can take action and work in a less stressful environment.
North Suburban Legal Service, LLC can help you with your sex discrimination case. Our Chicago sex discrimination lawyers can assess your case and help you with financial recovery. We’ll hold your employer liable for their actions. To schedule a consultation, call our office at (312) 909-6089.