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Sex Discrimination

Workplace Sex Discrimination

Our team of Nashville sex discrimination lawyers fights for employees who have been discriminated against in their employment due to their sex.

If you have been treated poorly compared to coworkers of the opposite sex, you may be the victim of unlawful discrimination.

Common examples of sex and gender discrimination in the workplace include:

  • Hiring: You are well qualified for a position including all the necessary experience and educational qualifications. After completing three rounds of hiring interviews, the company refuses to hire you because “clients want to talk to other men.” The job is offered to a man who is less qualified than you.
  • Firing/Lay-Off: Your company is reducing its workforce due to a reorganization; men with less experience and seniority are retained while you are laid off.
  • Promotion: You have worked hard for your employer for the past 20 years and received excellent annual performance reviews, but you were denied promotion in favor of less qualified men three times over the past two years.
  • Pay: You work in the same position as several men and have the same experience, ability, education, and training, but you are paid thousands of dollars less per year.
  • Harassment: Your male boss constantly makes comments about your clothing, body, and appearance, he asks you go out with him regularly, he insists on touching your shoulder or knee when he is talking to you, and he asks you to do tasks that are not appropriate for your position, such as making coffee and running errands for him. 
Legal Protections Against Sex Discrimination at Work

Gender and sex discrimination are prohibited by both Tennessee and federal law. Claims may include discrimination, retaliation, and sexual harassment. Employees who suffer gender or sex discrimination can seek monetary and equitable relief, including back pay, front pay, emotional distress damages, punitive damages, and reinstatement.

Workers who face sex and gender discrimination may pursue legal action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA). Title VII covers employers with 15 or more employees whereas the THRA covers employers with 8 or more employees. Employers generally cannot use sex or gender as a motivating factor for an adverse employment action such as demotion, termination, or lay off.

Other Types of Sex Discrimination

You think of discrimination based on sex, the first thing you think of is probably a woman who is passed over or fired in favor of a man. But courts and legislatures have interpreted sex discrimination to cover much more than that. 

The following is a non-exhaustive list other things that are illegal under laws aimed at preventing sex discrimination:

  • Sex stereotyping: Sex stereotyping is when a person is treated differently because they don’t conform to gender-based stereotypes. For example, in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, a female senior manager was criticized her for acting “masculine” by being aggressive and harsh and was told that she would improve her chances of promotion if she “walked, talked, and dressed more femininely.” The U.S. Supreme Court said this was illegal sex discrimination. 490 U.S. 228 (1989).
  • “Sex-plus” discrimination: “Sex-plus” claims arise when a certain subset of men or women are targeted for unfair treatment—that is, when they are targeted due to their sex PLUS something else. Common examples include Black women, older women, married women, or men who take parental leave. 
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity: In Bostock v. Clayton County, the U.S. Supreme Court held that employment actions based on sexual orientation and gender identity are illegal sex discrimination. The Court reasoned that, where, for example, a company fired a female employee for dating a woman but would not have fired a male employee for dating a woman, the decision was motivated by the employee’s sex. 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020). You can read more about this law on our LGBTQ Discrimination page.
  • Sexual harassment: There are two forms of illegal sexual harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is when an employee’s employment status is based on submitting to sex-based demands, such as when an employee’s boss says she will get a promotion if she goes on a date with him. Second, hostile work environment is when sex-based harassment is so severe or pervasive that it impacts an employee’s ability to do their job, such as when an employee cannot go to work due to the fear of harassment or harm. Harassment does not have to be motivated by sexual attraction to be actionable. For example, in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., the Supreme Court was unanimous in saying that a male employee who was subjected to bullying by his male coworkers that included humiliating, sexual conduct was sex discrimination. 523 U.S. 75 (1998). You can read more about this law on our Sexual Harassment page.
  • Unequal pay: The federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) requires that men and women be paid the same for equal work under the same conditions. The EPA is unique among federal discrimination laws because, where a person can show they are being paid less than a person of another sex for the same work, the company must prove that the pay is not discriminatory, rather than the employee having to prove that it is. You can read more about this law on our Wage Discrimination page.
  • Failure to accommodate: The federal Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act of 2023 (PWFA) is a landmark law that requires employers to accommodate pregnant workers’ needs. However, the law doesn’t only cover pregnant employees. It also covers employees with any sort of “pregnancy-related medical condition,” which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency in charge of interpreting and enforcing the law, has said covers a wide range of reproductive health-related conditions such as menstrual cycles, use of birth control, fertility treatments, termination of pregnancy (including both miscarriage and abortion), postpartum depression, and lactation needs. The PWFA also specifically covers doctor visits to treat these conditions. You can read more about this law on our Pregnancy Discrimination and PWFA pages.
Fight Back Against Unlawful Workplace Discrimination

If you believe you have been discriminated against based on your sex or gender, our experienced team of employment lawyers can assert your legal rights in and out of court.

Contact our Nashville-based sex discrimination attorneys online or at the number above for a free online case review.

Client Reviews
Curt worked diligently and maintained excellent communication with my case. He made sure to keep us updated about any and everything. I highly recommend Rickard Masker, PLC. Would give more stars if possible. Jeffrey
Curt really came through for me when a previous employer had reported my job title and hire dates incorrectly, he got it corrected within 12 hours of speaking to him about it! I would recommend him for any of your legal needs as he is quite efficient! Renee
Curt was very responsive from the beginning. He made it a very easy process, and he provided excellent guidance in the review of my severance agreement. Due, in part, to Curt's thoughtful suggestions in regards to changing some key language in the agreement that would protect both me and my former employer, they agreed to the changes. To protect yourself during job transition, a review of a severance agreement is a smart thing to do, and Curt will do an excellent job on your behalf. Thomas
Curt handled a case for me and did an unbelievable job in getting a resolution and a great settlement. I would highly recommend him to anyone. Teena