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Sex Discrimination

Sex discrimination happens in the workplace when someone (an employee or applicant) is treated differently because of their sex. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 declared that it is illegal for an employer to treat employees differently because of their sex. Similarly, the Equal Pay Act requires “equal pay for equal work” and prohibits paying women and men differently for substantially similar work.

Employment discrimination against an individual because they are transgender – gender identity discrimination – also violates the Civil Rights Act. In addition, the Act also prohibits discrimination against a person who not conform with traditional sexual stereotypes.

Sex discrimination can take many forms. The following are most common:

  • Non-selection for a position
  • Non-promotion for a position
  • Unequal training
  • Job assignments
  • Pay
  • Firing
  • Different performance standards
  • Layoff
  • Fringe Benefits
  • Harassment
  • Any other term or condition of employment.


If you think you have been discriminated against because of your sex, you have deadlines by which you must file a charge of discrimination. These deadlines depend on where you worked (or where you applied for a job, if you were an applicant). If you are a employee or applicant with the federal government[ ] or D.C. government[ ], special rules apply.

To prove a sex discrimination claim, you have to show that you were subjected to a personnel action and that the employer treated you differently because of your sex. Because employers rarely admit that they discriminate, these cases can be difficult to prove. One of the most common methods of proving a discrimination claim involves disproving the employer’s alleged reasons for the action. For example, an employer might claim that it did not select a male candidate for a vacant job posting because the male candidate was not as qualified as the female candidate. However, if we can prove that the male candidate had equally good or better qualifications than the female who was selected, we have presented evidence suggesting that the employer’s stated reasons are not the real reasons. This would be evidence of discrimination.

You can also prove sex discrimination with evidence that the employer treated all members of one gender poorly. For example, if the employer has used sexually derogatory terms to refer to women, and never promotes women, this would be evidence of discrimination.

If you work in Washington, D.C., Maryland or Virginia, we can represent you. You must file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or with your local human rights office. The rules and procedures of each office are very different, so it is important that you talk with a lawyer to understand your rights and obligations.

If you think you have been the victim of sex discrimination and want to know your rights and options, contact us. During an initial consultation, we can evaluate whether you may have an employment discrimination claim, how to pursue and protect your rights, and identify what remedies may be available for you.

Although federal legislation does not specifically protect employees against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, there are some protections for federal employees against this kind of discrimination.


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