Sex and Gender Discrimination
California law prohibits harassment and discrimination in employment because of sex (which includes pregnancy, childbirth and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth), gender, gender identity, and gender expression, and/or retaliation for protesting illegal discrimination related to any of these categories. The law’s protections encompass both the biological differences between men and women and a person's gender-related appearance and behavior regardless of assigned sex at birth. Thus, it is unlawful for employers to take adverse employment actions against an employee based on gender or stereotypes connected with gender.
Examples of unlawful employment practices because of gender/sex include:
- Employment standards or policies requiring sexually provocative dress or grooming that tend to stereotype women as sex objects.
- Refusing to permit employees to wear pants on account of the sex of the employee.
- Discriminating against a female employee because she does not “act like a woman.”
- Sex-based discrimination in rates of pay to employees for the same job.
- Appearance standards that impose more stringent requirements on employees of one sex than on employees of the other sex.
- Discriminating against particular subgroups of women, such as women with children.
- Treating married women differently than married men (marital status is a protected characteristic under California law).
- Discrimination against employees or applicants because of their sexual preference or orientation (i.e., homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, or transexuality), or for appearing to be of a particular sexual orientation.
California law also protects gender identity and gender expression. This means that employers are required to allow an employee to appear or dress in a manner consistent with the employee's gender expression and gender identity. "Gender expression" is defined as "a person's gender-related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated with the person's assigned sex at birth." Thus, those who regard themselves as the sex opposite their original physical gender (i.e., transgender individuals) and those who dress and/or outwardly appear as the opposite sex (i.e., cross-dressers) will be entitled to the same protections against gender/sex discrimination. Employers may impose reasonable workplace appearance, grooming, or dress standards, however, within dress guidelines, an employer must permit employees to appear or dress in a manner consistent with their gender identity or gender expression.
If you have experienced discrimination at your workplace because of your sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, contact a sex discrimination attorney at Workplace Justice Advocates, A Professional Law Corporation for a free initial consultation.