Curt Masker is a Nashville sex discrimination lawyer who fights for workers who have been discriminated against 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. In 2017, a Pew Research Center poll revealed that 4 out of 10 women report experiencing gender discrimination at work.
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 have 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.
Gender and sex discrimination are prohibited by both Tennessee and federal law. Claims may include discrimination, retaliation, and sexually hostile work environment. 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.
The discrimination examples above include gender stereotyping, unconscious bias, unequal pay, and other impermissible factors. In Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that an employer who considered sex-based evaluation criteria in its promotion decision-making process may run afoul of federal law. The plaintiff was a female senior manager of a nationwide professional accounting firm. When she was considered for partnership in the firm, several of the firm’s male partners criticized her for acting “masculine” and suggested that she would improve her chances the next year if she “walked, talked, and dressed more femininely.” 490 U.S. 228 (1989).
To establish a prima facie case of sex discrimination, a plaintiff must prove: "(1) membership in the protected class; (2) that she suffered an adverse action; (3) that she was qualified for the position; and (4) that she was replaced by someone outside the protected class or was treated differently from similarly situated members of the unprotected class." Warfield v. Lebanon Corr. Inst., 181 F.3d 723, 728-29 (6th Cir. 1999).
The first three elements are often easily established while the fourth element is disputed. For the fourth element, a person is “similarly situated” when the individual outside of the protected class is similar to the plaintiff in “all of the relevant aspects.” Pierce v. Commonwealth Life Ins. Co., 40 F.3d 796, 802 (6th Cir. 1994). Generally, this means you and the other individual must have “dealt with the same supervisor, have been subject to the same standards and have engaged in the same conduct ….” Mitchell v. Toledo Hosp., 964 F.2d 577, 583 (6th Cir. 1992). However, these factors are not exhaustive and the relevancy of a particular factor can vary depending on the specific facts of your case.
If you believe you have been discriminated against based on your sex or gender, contact Nashville Employment Attorney Curt Masker for a free and confidential consultation here.