What to Know

Gender Discrimination in the Workplace in California

Gender Discrimination. We represent employees in Los Angeles and everywhere else in California.

If you believe you are a victim of gender discrimination at the workplace, call us at 888-762-0297 to discuss your case.

We do not charge for consultations.

We represent clients in the state of California.

Gender discrimination is a common civil rights violation and can take many forms.

Gender discrimination – meaning

The unequal or disadvantageous treatment of an individual or group of people based on their gender in work environments is often unlawful gender discrimination. In addition, sexual harassment is one type of unlawful gender discrimination.

Gender discrimination in the workplace

Gender discrimination can take on many forms. For example:

  • Hiring: A faculty hiring only male graduate assistants.
  • Benefits: A company's health insurance policy not covering employees' husbands because they assume they will have their own benefits—however, male coworkers have their wives covered under the same policy.
  • Job classifications: You work at a company for four years and put in many hours of overtime. After you return from maternity leave, you inform your employer that you won't be able to put in as many hours of overtime. Your employer demotes you to a lower level with less pay. At the same time, your employer permits your male coworkers in similar positions to reduce their overtime hours for personal reasons without changing their positions or pay.
  • Unequal pay: You started as a cook's helper and worked your way up to a chef. A male chef with similar work experience, training, and education was recently hired. You learn that his salary will be higher than yours.
  • Job opportunity: You are one of your company's most successful salespeople but are moved to a less desirable region. A male with much lower sales is assigned to your client base and territory. As such, he makes much more in commissions than you will make in several years.
  • Denied promotion or training: You have been with your company for several years, getting exemplary reviews and even an employee-of-the-year award. However, you have applied for promotions multiple times, and they are instead filled by less qualified male coworkers.
  • Firing: You are laid off and told by your company that it's due to company cutbacks and reorganization, and men in the same job and with less seniority than you aren't laid off.
  • Retaliation: It's illegal for an employer to retaliate against or punish you for reporting or standing up to gender discrimination or assisting with an investigation or legal action concerning gender discrimination. Examples of employment retaliation include being demoted, receiving a pay cut or a reduction in work hours, being forced to take leave, or being fired or being reassigned to an undesirable job, shift, or location. Retaliation can also be subtle and grow slowly over time—examples include no longer being invited to meetings or not being included in communications you were formerly in.

Gender discrimination in academia

Gender discrimination can occur in various contexts in academia and often occurs in:

  • Extracurricular activities
  • Academic programs
  • Discipline
  • Class assignments that are given in a classroom
  • Class enrollment
  • Physical education
  • Grading
  • Athletics

Proving gender discrimination

To prove gender discrimination, you should follow these five steps:

  1. Use your company's internal complaint system—talk to your human resources department and follow their policies for reporting gender discrimination
  2. Obtain evidence establishing your company knows of the discrimination
  3. Document evidence to help support your gender discrimination claim (see below)
  4. Research the federal and laws applicable to your situation
  5. Seek legal advice from an experienced California gender discrimination attorney

How to document gender discrimination

Documentation of gender discrimination is one of the most critical steps you can take to prove what has happened to you. Take notes and keep detailed records of:

  • The date, time, and location of any actions that contribute to your discrimination
  • Direct statements from managers or supervisors
  • The names and work contact information for any potential witnesses

If you have emails, company memos, or documented policies that support the discrimination you are experiencing, save those somewhere you will have easy access to even if you become no longer employed there. If you file any formal reports or make any complaints to your human resources department at work, keep copies of those for your records as well. Finally, if you have informal communications that are relevant to the discrimination, such as texts or personal emails, save those as well.

Gender discrimination laws in California

Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), it's illegal for an employer to do any of the following because of an employee or potential employee's sex or gender (Cal. Gov. Code § 12940(a)):

  • Refuse to hire
  • Discharge or terminate
  • Refuse to select
  • Bar or discharge an employee from a training program leading to employment
  • Discriminate against someone in compensation or terms, conditions, or privileges of employment

Any of these actions and many more could constitute gender discrimination. In general, if an employer acts in a specific negative manner towards an employee, it could be categorized as gender discrimination.

FEHA applies to both public and private employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies. FEHA protects employees, unpaid interns, contractors, volunteers, and job applicants from discrimination, including gender discrimination. The law is more expansive in its employee protections than Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which means workers may have rights under state law that do not exist under federal law.

Federal laws

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - often referred to simply as Title VII - protects employees against discrimination based on color, race, religion, gender, or national origin and in regard to their compensation and terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The federal law applies to employers with 15 or more employees. However, the analogous state law applies to employers with as few as five. State laws only apply to the state, whereas federal laws govern the federal, state, and local organizations and agencies.

This Act prohibits employers from discriminating in the following areas:

  • Compensation and pay
  • Fringe benefits
  • Apprenticeship and training programs
  • Promotions, transfers, layoffs, or recalls
  • Recruiting
  • Hiring and firing
  • Job advertising
  • Pre-employment and employment testing
  • Retirement plan offerings
  • Disability leave
  • Any other terms and conditions that may be different between genders

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 stems from Title VII. However, unlike Title VII, which protects against most forms of discrimination, the Equal Pay Act only protects against wage discrimination. Under this Act, employers are barred from wage discrimination based on gender. If they do engage in it, aggrieved employees may have legal recourse.

What qualifies for EEOC or DFEH complaint?

Suppose you believe you are facing or have recently faced gender discrimination. In that case, you have the right to take action and file a complaint.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal civil rights agency that ensures the enforcement of federal civil rights laws. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is a state civil rights agency that ensures the enforcement of California civil rights law.

EEOC will only accept a complaint if your employer has at least 15 employees. On the other hand, DFEH will accept complaints if your employer has five or more employees. If your employer has 15 or more employees, you can file with either agency. If your employer has less than 15 (but at least five) employees, you will need to file with DFEH.

New laws (2021) related to gender discrimination

H.R. 5 was passed on February 25, 2021, by the 117th Congress. Known as the Equality Act, it prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas such as:

  • Public accommodations and facilities
  • Education
  • Federal funding
  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Credit
  • Jury system

This legislation identifies and includes sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation. It also expands the definition of public accommodations.

Under this bill, the Department of Justice (DOJ) can intervene in equal protection actions in federal court on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Denying access to a shared facility, including restrooms, locker rooms, and dressing rooms due to an individual's gender identity, is illegal per the Equality Act.

Discrimination on a bias of sex

Gender bias is the tendency to prefer one gender over another. It is most often visible in professional settings. When an employer acts on that bias, they are discriminating on the bias of sex.

Gender bias is a form of unconscious bias or implicit bias. This happens when one person unconsciously attributes certain stigmas, attitudes, or stereotypes to another individual or group of people. These described behaviors affect how someone understands and engages with others—the workforce being no exception.

The time limit to file a lawsuit

California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (FEHA): You have three (3) years from the date of alleged discrimination or retaliation to file an administrative complaint of discrimination with FEHA.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): In most cases, you only have 180 days to file a complaint with EEOC.

Right to Sue Notice: Additionally, you only have one (1) year from your Right to Sue Notice from that Department to file gender discrimination or retaliation lawsuit. If you don't exercise your legal options during the mandated deadlines, you will lose your right to do so going forward.

Do sex or gender discrimination cases go to trial?

Yes, sometimes, the sex or gender discrimination cases go to trial. If all parties involved in a lawsuit can't negotiate a fair settlement or the underlying facts or applicable law are in dispute, the case will go to trial.

For more information

To discuss your case, call us at 888-762-0297 and ask to speak with an attorney who handles gender discrimination cases.

Your consultation will be confidential, informative, and free.

We take all cases on contingency and advance all costs - which we only are reimbursed if we successfully recover on your behalf.

We represent clients in Los Angeles and other cities in California.

Last updated on September 6, 2021.

Additional Resources

• California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects employees from gender discrimination.