Gender discrimination is one of the most common forms of employment discrimination in the United States. Though men and women can potentially be victimized, most often, it is women who suffer the career-altering effects of this pernicious workplace bias. More recently, though, the law has begun recognizing that employers also discriminate against workers and job applicants based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, i.e., whether the person is cisgender or transgender.
Workplace discrimination based on sex takes two main forms: direct discrimination and harassment.
It is illegal to treat workers or job applicants differently based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This includes refusing to hire, promote, train or grant a raise solely because of one of those reasons. The law also prohibits firing, demoting or otherwise punishing a worker for no reason other than the employee’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
Technically, sexual harassment is a form of sex-based discrimination. Sexual harassment occurs 1) when a supervisor or manager threatens to fire or punish an employee if they do not perform sexual favors or offers benefits in exchange for sex; or 2) when one or more managers or co-workers creates a toxic work environment using sexually suggestive comments, jokes, communications or images.
However, harassment can be a form of sex discrimination without being sexual in nature. For example, offensive comments about women made in a female employee’s presence can be harassment.
Most larger employers in Indiana have discrimination and harassment policies that require victims to report incidents to their superiors or Human Resources. If you have tried that, but your employer has not taken care of the problem, you should explore your legal options with an employment law attorney.