What Is Sex Discrimination, And How Do I Prove It?

It is illegal in Illinois for a company to fire or take an adverse job action against you because of your sex or gender. Oftentimes, a sex discrimination case involves a female employee being mistreated at work but there are many variations. If you think you are being sexually discriminated against on the job, below is critical information to know. Next, speak to a Chicago sex discrimination lawyer at North Suburban Legal Services for help filing a claim or lawsuit.

Sex Discrimination Overview

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Illinois Human Rights Act ban discrimination based on sex or gender. Both laws also prohibit sexual harassment.

Sex discrimination means treating an employee or job applicant in a detrimental manner because of their gender. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act states it is against the law to discriminate by sex in any part of employment. This includes:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Compensation
  • Work assignments
  • Layoff training
  • Benefits
  • Promotions
  • Other terms of conditions at work

So, it is against state and federal law to discriminate against you under Title VII and the Equal Pay Act. Therefore, you can have a claim under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII for unequal pay because of sex discrimination. Also, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act bans sex discrimination because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical issues.

Potential Damages For Sex Discrimination Under Federal And State Law

Title VII applies to any employer that has 15 or more workers. It also applies to federal, state, and local employers. Workers who are sexually discriminated against under Title IVV may be eligible for compensatory and punitive damages. You also may receive back pay, front pay, and attorney’s fees and costs. Title VII also establishes caps on the compensatory and punitive damages you can receive. The caps depend on the size of the organization:

  • 15-100 workers: $50,000 compensatory damages, $50,000 punitive damages
  • 101-200 workers: $100,000 compensatory damages, $100,000 punitive damages
  • 201-500 workers: $200,000 compensatory damages, $200,000 punitive damages
  • 501 or more workers: $300,000 compensatory damages, $300,000 punitive damages

However, the Illinois Human Rights Act does not have caps on what you can receive for proving sex discrimination. This Act usually applies to organizations with at least 15 workers in the state. It also applies to public contractors and state government agencies. But for a sex harassment claim, organizations with one or more workers are covered by the Illinois Human Rights Act.

How Do You Prove Sex Discrimination?

Proving a sex discrimination case is complex and usually requires the help of a lawyer. There are two kinds of evidence that you prove sex discrimination or harassment:

Direct Evidence

Direct evidence is the simplest way to prove sex discrimination. For example, direct evidence would be supervisor statements or written communications that relate to the adverse action taken against you because of sex or gender.

For instance, if your boss says you are being laid off because you are pregnant and plan to take leave, this is direct evidence of discrimination. The evidence might be in a verbal comment, email, note, or memo.

However, most employers know not to provide direct evidence of discrimination. Therefore, your attorney may have to do additional work collecting circumstantial evidence to prove discrimination.

Circumstantial Evidence

Circumstantial or indirect evidence is anything besides direct statements from the organization that suggest discrimination. Workers usually have to rely on indirect evidence to prove sex discrimination.

This is done with the ‘McDonnell-Douglas Test,’ named after a well-known US Supreme Court decision. The decision established that the worker must demonstrate a ‘prima facie case’ to suggest sex discrimination occurred. To do so, you must be able to say ‘yes’ to these questions:

  • Do you belong to the protected class? For instance, are you in that sex or gender class?
  • Are you qualified for your job? For instance, if you need a master’s degree for the teaching position, do you have one?
  • Did the organization take adverse action against you? These include firing, hiring, promoting, compensating, etc. For example, did the company decline to promote you because you plan to take maternity leave? If so, that is sex discrimination.
  • Did someone replace you that is not your sex or gender? For instance, were you replaced by a man if you are a woman?

If you show those four things above because you were qualified for the position and an adverse action was taken, then you were replaced by someone, not in the class, discrimination might have occurred. Some other circumstantial evidence that could suggest discrimination include:

  • Being treated differently than someone not in your class with the same skills, experience, and education.
  • Managers make negative comments about your status in a protected class.
  • Circumstances of the treatment are highly unjust and severe.
  • An employer has a history of showing discrimination towards people in your class.
  • Fewer workers are in your protected class than others.

How Do You Know If You Were Discriminated Against?

Rarely will an employer or supervisor directly state that they discriminate against you, so, you should watch for discriminatory actions or comments. Note how people of your sex or gender are treated compared to others. If you suspect your work conditions are affected by your sex or gender, that is sex discrimination.

However, just because you think a situation is unfair does not mean you are being discriminated against. The adverse decision must affect your job, duties, and compensation. For example, if your supervisor does not give you as much food or candy because you are a woman, that is unfair (and silly). But it is probably not the basis of a sex discrimination case.

On the other hand, deciding to give you a lower commission schedule because of your sex or gender is sex discrimination and would be actionable. If you have questions about whether an action or decision is sex discrimination, you should run the scenario past a Chicago sex discrimination attorney.

Call A Chicago Sex Discrimination Lawyer Now

Sex discrimination is serious anywhere in Chicago, from the Museum of Science and Industry to Shedd Aquarium and everything in between. Do you think you were a sex discrimination victim? You have rights under the law. Our Chicago sex discrimination lawyers at North Suburban Legal Services can help, so call (312) 909-6089 for assistance.




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