California and federal law prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based upon sex, such as by terminating employees, demoting them, laying them off, or denying them promotions or advancement because of their sex or gender. Employers may not take sex or gender into consideration when hiring. Women cannot be paid less based on gender, or treated differently in the other terms and conditions of their employment based on sex. The law prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions against employees based on gender-based stereotypes about their interests or abilities. The law also prohibits employers from firing or taking other actions against employees for engaging in protected activities, such as complaining about sex discrimination. See Retaliation Claims.
Sex discrimination can be subtle and can arise in a variety of circumstances. A new male manager may want to employ men, and may eliminate the jobs of the women working for him under the guise of reorganization. Men with less experience or seniority may be promoted before women, or given training opportunities that women are not. Employers may assume that women with children, or pregnant women, do not want to perform certain tasks (such as travel), or work certain hours, and discriminate against them as a result. Female employees may be paid less than men with the same title or who perform the same work. Work may be assigned to employees based upon gender stereotypes about what men or women are good at or will enjoy, providing men with better opportunities to advance within the company. Employers can hold gender-based stereotypes that women do not want to work in the trades or perform manual labor, or may impose lifting or other requirements that are not necessary parts of the job in order to eliminate women.
Even if an employer claims there is a performance-related reason for a termination, women should consider whether they were treated differently than similarly-situated male employees. An employee may be able to prove a sex discrimination case even if gender is not the sole reason for the firing. Employees should not sign releases of claims unless and until they have determined, with the advice of a lawyer, that they are not giving up valuable sex discrimination or other claims.
Siegel LeWitter Malkani has a long history of successfully litigating sex discrimination claims for employees, including:
- Representing a woman who was fired from one of the world’s largest media companies based on her sex and sexual orientation, and in retaliation for her protected complaints. The plaintiff was fired along with several other women, while men with less seniority were retained. The women who were fired were replaced with men. The company agreed to pay $650,000 to settle the case.
- Siegel LeWitter Malkani represented a number of women in sex discrimination cases against well known grocery store chains. In several cases, successful female executives were fired for a variety of pretextual and subjective reasons such as not demonstrating “leadership” or “executive” skills. Siegel LeWitter Malkani was able to prove that male executives were treated more favorably and that the male executive team was uncomfortable with women on their team, securing substantial resolutions for its clients.
Employees with sex discrimination claims should also look at whether they also experienced other types of discrimination by their employers. See Pregnancy Discrimination; Harassment; Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination; Leaves of Absence/Retaliation; Retaliation.
If you believe Siegel LeWitter Malkani could provide assistance to you about possible sex discrimination, please contact the firm.