Are you familiar with the glass ceiling? It’s a term used to describe the obstacles that many women and members of minority groups face when trying to advance in their careers or professions. It’s no secret that historically, women as a whole have earned less, on average, than their male counterparts. No matter how much progress we have made in terms of equality in recent years, that fact has not changed.
However, what a lot of people may not know is that women are at risk of coming face-to-face with a lot more than just career advancement hurdles. Women are supposed to be protected by the U.S. Employment Equal Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal laws to protect women against gender-based workplace discrimination. But, we don’t live in a perfect world, and not all acts of discrimination are reported or even noticed. So, how can you tell if you’re facing discrimination at work?
Discrimination Against Women In The Workplace
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to discrimination at work. Generally speaking, workplace discrimination typically occurs by way of sexual harassment, withholding promotions or bonuses, disallowing women from taking part in training opportunities or other work-related activities, and more.
Sexual Harassment At Work
According to the American Association of University Women, sexual harassment, in its most general form, is described as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” That includes bribes for sexual activity, suggestive jokes, “pervasive displays of materials with sexually illicit or graphic content,” and more. Sexual harassment against a female isn’t always perpetrated by a male employer, as women can sexually harass other women.
As noted by the AAUW, a one-time occurrence of sexual conduct or a single remark is generally not enough to create what’s known as a hostile environment. To argue that a woman is being sexually harassed and therefore is working in a hostile environment, proof of a pattern of offensive behaviors is typically required. However, just one severe incident of harassment can potentially be enough to qualify as a violation. The more severe the harassment is, the less proof is needed, especially if the harassment is physical.
Withholding Promotions Or Bonuses
Particularly in a workforce where physical ability plays a role in daily tasks, women can potentially get snubbed for a promotion for a job that requires physical strength. It can be assumed that, because she’s a woman, she’s not physically capable of successfully completing the job. This is another form of discrimination because it cannot be automatically assumed the job cannot be completed based on gender without allowing the woman equal opportunity to prove her physical abilities.
Out of fear of missing out on a promotion or bonus, a woman working for the government or for a large company might feel she has to hide a pregnancy because of the 12 weeks’ maternity leave women in these jobs are allowed under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Additionally, women may avoid telling potential employers about their desire to have children for the same reason. There have also been situations in which a female faces discrimination because of her physical appearance. Some potential employers may hire women they personally find more attractive, arguing that those women are “likely to bring in more sales,” according to Lisa Finn, a writer for Our Everyday Life. On the other hand, an attractive female may not get hired because the employer is worried about how men in the workplace would react to her.
Despite the glass ceiling mentioned before, a woman with the same job title as a man, with the same seniority and responsibilities, should be paid equally. Otherwise, she’s being discriminated against. Employers found to be guilty of such discrimination can be sued under The Equal Pay Act of 1963. Consequences for the employer might include fines and the requirement to pay back lost wages.
What Can You Do?
If you believe you are the victim or have been the victim of workplace discrimination, you should keep track of every case in which you felt you were being discriminated against. You should contact your employer’s human resources representative and inform them of the issue. You can also file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but if they don’t find any proof of discrimination, the case will be closed. You then have 90 days to file your own lawsuit. There are several law firms that specialize in workplace discrimination and EEOC, such as Hutchison & Stoy, the “Warriors for Justice.”
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