What to Know

Sex Discrimination in the Workplace - California

Sex Discrimination in the Workplace. Los Angeles, California.

Sex discrimination claims

If you are facing Sex Discrimination in the workplace, call us at 888-762-0297 to discuss your case.

We help clients in Los Angeles and California resolve their Sex Discrimination disputes with their employers.

We do not charge for consultations.

Sex discrimination definition

Sex discrimination refers to treating someone in an unfavorable manner because of their sex, and both federal and state laws prohibit such discrimination in the workplace.

Sex discrimination also encompasses discrimination based on other factors stemming from an employee's sex, including:

Pregnancy and childbirth

Sexual orientation

Gender identity and gender expression

Sex discrimination laws

On the federal level, both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) prohibit Sex discrimination. Californians have further protection from the state Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Types of discrimination

There are different protected factors involved in Sex discrimination, and there are also different ways that employers might discriminate based on someone's sex. The following are some common types of Sex discrimination:

Discrimination in hiring

Discrimination in firing


Unequal pay

Disparate treatment

Policies or practices with disparate impact


Hiring discrimination based on gender

Unless an employer has a specific reason - such as needing male models for a specific project - companies may not restrict hiring based on an applicant's gender. Employers generally may not inquire about pregnancy or future pregnancy, LGBTQ status, or other gender-based factors on applications, in interviews, or during the hiring process.

Firing discrimination based on gender

In California, in some cases, employers will terminate an employee because of their sex or related reasons, which constitutes wrongful termination. Often, discriminatory firing constitutes unlawful retaliation. This can happen when an employee reports discrimination or harassment at work, and the employer fires them.

Examples of sex discrimination at work

Sometimes, it can be difficult for an employee to be sure that they experienced unlawful sex discrimination because it can happen in so many ways. The following are only some examples of how sex discrimination might occur:

A company states they will only hire women for a position (without a valid reason)

A corporation promotes a man over a more-qualified woman because they only want male executives

A gay man is terminated from his employment when his employer finds out about his LGBTQ status

A boss threatens to fire an employee if they do not agree to sexual relations

A woman employee gets harassed for dressing in a manner that does not conform with traditional gender stereotypes

A woman gets paid less than a man employee with the same job title, duties, and experience

What compensation can you expect in a sex discrimination lawsuit?

In California, employees who experienced unlawful sex discrimination can seek compensation for different damages, including:

Back pay

Any out-of-pocket losses

Attorney’s fees and court costs

Emotional distress

Sex Discrimination: EEOC

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal anti-discrimination laws and sets out guidelines for employers to prevent sex discrimination in the first place. The EEOC can investigate discrimination claims, try to settle claims with employers, impose civil penalties, or file lawsuits on behalf of employees.

Sex Discrimination: Title IX

If you work for an educational institution that receives federal funds, including K-12 or higher education, you have protections under Title IX. Title IX prevents Sex discrimination in these educational settings, and the law covers both students and employees.

Sex Discrimination: OFCCP

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) enforces anti-discrimination laws for companies contracting with the federal government. If you work for a government contractor or subcontractor, you can bring complaints of Sex discrimination to the OFCCP.

Executive Order 13665

Former President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13665 to deter unequal pay based on sex discrimination by federal contractors. Any company that enters into a final contract valued at least $10,000 after January 2016 may not discriminate or retaliate against employees who discuss or reveal their compensation to other employees.

Executive Order 11246

Former President Lyndon B. Johnson implemented Executive Order 11246 in 1965. This Order specifically protects employees of federal contractors from various types of employment discrimination, including sex-based discrimination.

Title VII preferential treatment

In some cases, it is not an adverse employment decision that violates an employee's rights. Instead of treating applicants or employees of one sex unfavorably, an employer might engage in preferential treatment of employees of the other sex. For example, preferring to have male executives becomes discrimination when an employer hires a male applicant based on his gender instead of giving a female applicant a fair chance. Treating one gender more favorably can be discriminatory even in the absence of overtly unfavorable treatment.

Who is exempt from Title VII?

Not every employer in the United States must abide by Title VII. For example, the law does not apply to employers with fewer than 15 total employees. It is important to remember, however, that California law applies to employers with five or more employees, so even if Title VII does not apply, employers might still violate California law with acts of sex discrimination.

Also, employers are exempt from Title VII if they can show they are a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society. These religious employers do not have to abide by anti-discrimination provisions of Title VII, including discrimination based on sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender expression or identity. While churches and other traditional religious organizations are exempt, other for-profit employers might claim they are religious simply because the owners have certain beliefs and do not want to hire certain employees. This is important to recognize, challenge and prevent unlawful discrimination.

What is the time limit to file a sex discrimination lawsuit in California?

If you are filing a sex discrimination claim under California law, you have three years (as of January 2020) to file a complaint with the state. If you obtain the right to sue from the state, you have another year to file a lawsuit. If you are filing a complaint with the EEOC under federal law, you only have 180 days or 300 days to do so, depending on your circumstances.

Can I file a Sex discrimination claim without an attorney?

Anyone can take action for Sex discrimination on their own, but this does not mean it is a wise decision. Sex discrimination claims can be complicated and challenging to prove, and employers typically fight against liability any way they can. It is always advisable to have a California Sex discrimination lawyer handling your case and protecting your rights.

For more information

Call us at 888-762-0297 with any questions you may have or to discuss your situation.

We take all Sex discrimination cases on a contingency basis, which means there is no fee if there is no recovery. We also advance all costs, which are reimbursed only upon a successful recovery for you.

We don't charge for consultations.

We represent clients in Los Angeles and throughout the state of California.

Last updated on August 31, 2021.

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