Knowledge Center

Sex Discrimination

Sex discrimination exists when a person or group of people are treated unfavorably solely on the basis of their sex. In the U.S.,  it is illegal to discriminate based on sex including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, and benefits. Sex discrimination includes sexual harassment, hiring discrimination and pregnancy discrimination.1 

 

  • Sex discrimination creates inequalities between men and women: including vertical segregation by occupation, pay discrimination, and the unequal division of unpaid work between men and women. 2

  • Sex discrimination cases are the second most common discrimination charges brought to the EEOC.3

COMPARISON OF SELECT EEOC CHARGES FILED (2010 and 2013)

Type of Charge Number of Charges in 2010 Percentage of Total Charges in 2010 Number of Charges in 2013 Percentage of Total Charges in 2013  

Race Discrimination4

35,890

35.9%

33,068

35.3%

 

Sex Discrimination5

29,029

29.1%

27,687

29.5%

 

Sexual Harassment6

7,944

8.0%

7,256

7.7%

 

Pregnancy Discrimination7

4,029

4.0%

3,541

3.8%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pregnancy Discrimination

  •  An amendment to Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that, "discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination."8Title VII's pregnancy-protections include:

    • An employer cannot refuse to hire someone on the basis of pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition, or based on prejudices of coworkers.9

    • A pregnant employee must be allowed to work for as long as they can perform their job duties.10

  •  In 2013, the 3,541 charges brought to the EEOC for pregnancy discrimination resulted in $17 million in monetary benefits (which did not include litigation awards).11

    • 179 were found to have reasonable cause.12

    • 436 were settled.13

    • 233 cases withdrawn with benefits.14

Sexual Harassment

  • Sexual harassment is defined as "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature such that submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment."15

    • In the United States, sexual harassment does not necessarily have to cause economic suffering or threats/acts of firing.16

    • The behavior of the harasser must be unwelcome. 17

    • Sexual harassment can be from a supervisor, a supervisor from another department, a co-worker, a client, or customer.18

    • In recent years, the percentage of sexual harassment charges filed by men has risen.19

 

NUMBER OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT CHARGES FILED TO THE EEOC BY MEN20

 
Year Number of Sexual Harassment Charges Percent Filed by Men

2010

7,944

16.2%

2011

7,809

16.1%

2012

7,571

17.8%

2013

7,256

17.6%

 

Sex Discrimination Around the World

CANADA

  • Article 15 of of Canada''s constitution prohibits discrimination based on gender.21

  • Of the 6,428 disputes filed in 2011 with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, 160 or 11 percent cited sex discrimination as the grounds for the case.22

AUSTRALIA

  • In Australia, sexual harassment has been outlawed for 25 years but is still a problem. The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) makes sexual harassment unlawful in some circumstances.23

  • Sexual harassment in the workplace is one of the most common complaints received by the Commission under the Sex Discrimination Act.24

    • 21% of all complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission were under the Sex Discrimination Act, and 88% of those complaints were  sex discrimination in the workplace complaints. 25

    • Sexual harassment predominantly effects women: 1 in 5 women experience sexual harassment in the workplace, compared to 1 in 20 men.26

INDIA

  • Article 15(1) of of India's constitution prohibits discrimination based on gender.27

  • 17% of working women in India have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work.28

  • In 2013, India passed the Anti Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act.The Act defines sexual harassment in the workplace and intends to minimize any bias or influence by people in positions of  authority to intervene in cases of sexual harassment.29

  • In a recent ICRW and UN Women Survey, 95 percent of women and girls feel unsafe from unwanted sexual harassment in public spaces in the city of Delhi.30

  • 63 percent of women in the Delhi survey were afraid to go out after dark alone and 21 percent stated they do not go out at all.31

 

JAPAN

  • Article 14 of of Japan's constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex.32

  • The Equal Employment office had 9,981 sexual harassment consultations in 2012.(60 percent of those cases were female employees compared to 5.5 percent of male employees; the other cases were made by business owners or others).33

  • Sexual harassment is illegal under the Equal Employment Opportunity Law. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare is publicizing the law and providing guidance so that business owners will take appropriate steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.34

EUROPEAN UNION

  • Article 13 of the Treaty of Amsterdam, extends the  discrimination that is prohibited to include sex.  Article 21 (1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union also includes a general prohibition of ‘any discrimination based on any ground, such as sex..."35

Note:
*This Quick Take focuses primarily on sex discrimination and sexual harassment. Sex discrimination focuses solely on discrimination that is attributable to sex; that is, discrimination on the basis of being a female or a male. Gender discrimination is rooted in perceptions of gender, gender stereotyping, and gender biases.

 

How to cite this product: Catalyst. Quick Take: Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment. New York: Catalyst, July 3, 2014.