Gender Discrimination

It is unlawful for an employer to treat employees differently or discriminate against them on the basis of sex or gender.  Federal and state laws prohibit employment discrimination based on sex including treating male or female employees differently with respect to hiring, firing, tenure, promotion, pay, benefits, terms, conditions, facilities, privileges of employment and job classification.  Sexual harassment is also a form of sex discrimination.  

Sex or Gender Discrimination Can Occur in Several Ways

Disparate treatment:  employer treats one sex differently than the other in the terms or conditions of employment.

Disparate impact:  employer’s policies or practices have an adverse or negative impact on one sex versus the other.  For example, an employer starts requiring all potential hires to take a strength test used to evaluate employees ability to complete tasks like or related to the job.  The test is more difficult than the actual job and after instituting the test, the number of women hired for the job decreases significantly.  This policy, although neutral on its face (i.e. it did not mention women), would violate Title VII as having a disparate or negative impact on women.  

Unequal pay:  employer pays one sex less than the other for the same or substantively similar work.

Sexual Harassment: employer subjects the employee to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexually motivate physical contact or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature. 

Pregnancy Discrimination: employer treats woman unfavorably because of her pregnancy, childbirth or medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.  

Caregiver Discrimination: employer treats employee unfavorably because of family responsibilities. 

Generally, “sex” discrimination refers to the more obvious form of differential treatment of employees based on their biological identity as male or female. Discrimination however is often more subtle and can include differential treatment based on the social characteristics of maleness or femaleness.  Employers are also prohibited from discriminating against employees based on stereotypes of one’s gender. 

A common way that gender discrimination continues to occur in our society is the difference between what men and women are paid for the same work.  The disparity in pay between women and men still exists and it is significant.  Even with federal and state equal pay laws that have been in effect for decades, surveys show the pay disparity between full-time working women and men in Minnesota to be as much as $10,000.00 a year. 

Federal Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is the federal law that prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women. 29 U.S. C. 206 (d). The Act has been amended several times, most recently in 2009. In 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law. This law was created to reverse the result of the United States Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007). This decision severely limited the time in which an employee could bring a claim for pay discrimination. The court ruled the claim had to be brought within 180 days of the decision setting a discriminatory pay rate or wage. Practically speaking, this would be nearly impossible. It requires the employee to know of the pay disparity and report it immediately. The Ledbetter Act essentially put back in place the time limit many courts had applied prior the Supreme Court’s ruling: a claim starts to run from the date of any paycheck that contains an amount based on a discriminatory pay rate or wage.

Minnesota Equal Pay Act

Minnesota requires employers provide equal pay for equal work. Specifically, Minnesota Statute § 181.67 prohibits discrimination in wages paid to employees based on sex. This means an employer cannot discriminate in the wages it pays to male or female employees:

No employer shall discriminate between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees at a rate less than the rate the employer pays to employees of the opposite sex for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions…” Minn. Stat. § 181.67 subd. 1.

Retaliation Prohibited

Importantly, an employer is prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against an employee who has filed a complaint against an employer for violating the equal pay law: “No employer shall discriminate against any employee in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment because the employee has filed a complaint in a proceeding under sections 181.66 to 181.71, or has testified, or is about to testify, in any investigation or proceedings pursuant to sections 181.66 to 181.71 or in a criminal action pursuant to sections 181.66 to 181.71.” Minn. Stat. § 181.67 subd. 2. 

Contact Our Minnesota Employment Lawyers to Discuss Your Rights
The employment lawyers at Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP have represented hundreds of employees who have experienced sex and gender discrimination, sexual harassment, equal pay discrimination, pregnancy discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. If you feel have experienced any form of gender discrimination, we want to hear from you. Contact us at 612-252-3570 or click here for a free initial consultation.