Overview: Title VII as well as various state and local laws prohibit discrimination based on sex or gender. Accordingly, an employer should avoid making employment decisions based solely on gender as well as apply all workplace policies in a gender-neutral manner. This means that employers should use the same criteria to evaluate employee performance as well as provide both men and women with equal opportunity in hiring and advancement. Employers should develop a zero tolerance policy for gender discrimination and make sure to provide training to all employees and supervisors.
Further, employers should avoid engaging in unlawful sex stereotyping as well as treating men and women differently based on pregnancy, family and medical leave or caregiving responsibilities. Employers need to understand that the prohibition against sex discrimination not only applies to women, but also prohibits employee discrimination against men. It pertains to any discrimination that is based on an individual's gender and also prohibits sexual harassment.
Trends: Employers should be aware that the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has been introduced in the US Congress. It would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women unless it would cause undue hardship for the employer. Further, under the Affordable Care Act, employers are already obligated to provide reasonable breaks for mothers to express milk for up to one year after the child's birth.
Employers should also know that the EEOC has been aggressively pursuing sex discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC has been extremely successful in bringing class action lawsuits based on sex discrimination and sexual harassment. Further, in the landmark case of Macy v. Holder, EEOC No. 0120120821, the EEOC held that claims of discrimination based on gender identity, change of sex, sex stereotyping, and transgender status constitute sex discrimination. Additionally, the EEOC remains committed to providing for equal pay in the workplace.
Author: Beth P. Zoller, JD, Legal Editor
A discussion of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act prohibiting discrimination against workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions has been added to four sections of the Employment Law Manual.
The Pennsylvania EEO - Discrimination, EEO - Harassment, Disabilities (ADA), New Hire Paperwork and Employee Communications sections of the Employment Law Manual and the States and Major Municipal EEO Protected Classes - Chart have been updated to reflect the recent amendment to the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions.
The EEOC recently announced that it reached a settlement with financial services firm JPMorgan Chase in which JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay $1,450,000 to resolve allegations of sex discrimination and sex-based harassment brought by female mortgage brokers at a Columbus, Ohio facility.
On January 20, 2014, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter signed an amendment to the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance making discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unlawful and requiring employers to provide pregnant employees with reasonable accommodations.
As mandated by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, all covered employers should post the New Jersey Gender Equity Notice Poster.
The American Civil Liberties Union helped an employee file a federal lawsuit and an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint alleging that Saint-Gobain Containers, Inc., discriminated against employee Bobbi Bockoras because of her gender and violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to provide her time and space to express breast milk at work following the birth of her child.
A unanimous New York City Council recently passed a bill known as the New York City Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which if enacted would require employers to provide pregnant workers with reasonable accommodations unless doing so would cause the employer undue hardship.
A New Jersey Court has ruled that employers may impose reasonable weight and appearance requirements without violating gender discrimination laws under certain circumstances.
HR Guidance on addressing sex discrimination in the workplace and ensuring equal opportunity for employees and applicants of both genders.