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Does Social Class Matter in Gender Discrimination?

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Social Class Gender Discrimination

Gender discrimination generally refers to disparate treatment of people based on their sex and gender or, more recently, gender identity. It could arise in job duties, work pay, as sexual harassment, or through a variety of other generally outlawed practices. The federal government has laws against gender discrimination and tasks the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for enforcement of these laws.

Another issue that can be closely related to gender discrimination is social class. Gender discrimination occurs among all social classes, but there are significant differences. The following gives you a closer look at how social class affects gender discrimination in the workplace.

EEOC Definition of Gender Discrimination

The EEOC says sex-based discrimination happens whenever an employee is treated unfavorably because of the employee’s sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Whether it is referred to as sex discrimination or gender discrimination, the result it the same. It is an unlawful act that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

About 10 percent of all women say they experienced gender discrimination while working their current jobs. Although it is heartening to consider that 90 percent of the female workforce does not face this issue, that still means millions of women workers encounter gender discrimination. So do millions of male workers and others who are discriminated against because of their gender identity.

Women make up about 47 percent of the nation’s workforce that numbers nearly 158 million workers. With 10 percent of the about 75 million women employed in various positions throughout the nation’s workforce saying they experienced gender discrimination during the past year, about 7.5 million female workers, managers, and supervisors have suffered from unlawful discrimination.

Gender Discrimination Affects the Workplace

The EEOC says gender discrimination could occur through any aspect of your employment. It could occur through your hiring, job assignments, layoff, or firing. It could affect the amount you are paid, any potential raises, and fringe benefits. When you are hoping for a promotion, gender discrimination might work against you and cause a lesser qualified candidate to get the position. Virtually any aspect of your employment could be vulnerable to gender discrimination. The potential for actionable gender discrimination starts with the hiring process.

If you are qualified for a job but it goes to someone less qualified because of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation differences, you might have a valid claim. If you are passed over for promotion, paid less, or given discriminatory job assignments, those could form the basis for federal or state discrimination claims.

So could any discrimination because of pregnancy or a gender-specific condition that requires medical attention and possibly time away from work. Also, sexual harassment always qualifies as gender discrimination. Those examples of workplace gender discrimination could affect nearly any worker. However, social class plays a significant role in whether gender discrimination impacts the workplace.

Social Class Significantly Affects Gender Discrimination

Studies show that the more that women and others earn and the higher their education levels, the more frequently they encounter gender discrimination in the workplace. The national average is about 10 percent of women reporting the recent occurrence of general discrimination. However, that is overall average.

A look at more nuanced worker demographics shows a significant difference in the potential for encountering gender discrimination. Women who hold college degrees and are situated in leadership positions are almost twice as likely to encounter gender discrimination than women working in more entry-level positions.

Approximately seven percent of women who are employed at laborers or workers and who do not have college degrees say they encountered gender discrimination during the past year. About 13 percent of women in management or supervisory positions or who have college degrees say they encountered gender discrimination. That is nearly double the level of sexual harassment that general workers face and clearly shows social class affects gender discrimination rates.

The proverbial glass ceiling generally still exists and accounts for why social class has a distinct impact on gender discrimination. Women in leadership positions are fewer in number than general workers. Women in leadership positions and with college degrees have more male colleagues and often are viewed as being prone to missing work because of the potential for pregnancy or childrearing.

Women are more likely to get passed over for promotions to positions for which they are fully qualified than laborers. They also are more likely to be paid less for doing essentially the same work as their male counterparts. Those are just two examples of how social class significantly impacts women because of gender discrimination.

Women who are employed in lower-level jobs often are paid based on a common scale that makes it more difficult to discriminate. Women who are laborers and fulfilling more common job duties generally are more accepted as needing time away from work because of pregnancy and family responsibilities. That is partly why social class clearly has an impact on workplace gender discrimination.

New Jersey Law Against Discrimination

While the federal government outlaws gender discrimination, so does the state of New Jersey. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) bans discrimination based on gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The law also defines other protected classes, but those are the ones that generally apply to gender discrimination.

The NJLAD is separate from the federal law and would require a separate legal filing to press any claims that you might have against your employer or would-be employer. You would file your complaint in a state court for violations of the NJLAD. Any federal claims for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act would have to go through the federal court system. However, if you have a strong claim for federal violations, you likely have a strong claim for state-level violations as well.

The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights investigates complaints of gender discrimination and other violations of the state’s anti-discrimination law. If you file a complaint with the division, it is unlawful for your employer to engage in retaliation by firing you, suspending you, or in any other way. Filing a complaint with the state’s Civil Rights Division might not stop the discrimination. If not, a state-level lawsuit in addition to federal claims for gender discrimination might be required.

Prima Facie Discrimination Claims

If you are the victim of gender discrimination at work, you could file a prima facie legal claim against the offending employer for Title VII violations of the Civil Rights Act. Prima facie is the Latin phrase for “on its face” and essentially refers to obvious acts of discrimination. As long as your evidence supports your discrimination claim, a judge of a jury is more likely to believe your claim.

A valid prima facie claim requires you to show that you were:

  • Part of a protected class
  • Qualified for the position or pay amount
  • Rejected for the position or pay amount
  • Passed over in favor of someone who is not part of a protected class

When you can provide evidence of those four elements, you can file a federal claim for Title VII violations. Once filed, your employer, former employer, or prospective employer must respond within a designated timeframe.

The employer might provide evidence showing the decision was valid and not discriminatory. If so, the Title VII claim could be denied. However, if the employer cannot provide that type of supporting counter evidence, the Title VII claim stands a good chance of being affirmed by the court.

Similar claims can be made for violations of the NJLAD. Those claims would go through the state court system instead of the federal system.

Cherry Hill Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C., Help to Build Strong Claims Against Discrimination

The federal and New Jersey governments outlaw gender discrimination in the workplace, but millions of workers are victimized. If you or someone you know encountered gender discrimination in the workplace, reach out to the experienced Cherry Hill employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. We will thoroughly investigate the details of your case, ensure that your legal rights are protected, and assist you with the claims process. Call us today at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Pennsauken, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, we serve clients in Cherry Hill, Haddonfield, Marlton, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and South Jersey.


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