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Frequently Asked Questions About Gender Discrimination Claims


The attorneys at Michel | King and Michel, LLC are committed to educating their clients, as well as the residents of Birmingham. As such, we update our legal blog regularly in order to provide updates on the ever-changing laws relating to employment discrimination, executive compensation, and all other employment matters we handle. Ultimately, it is our desire that Birmingham residents stay informed. Below, you will find the answers to many of the common questions asked by our clients regarding workplace gender discrimination claims.

What Law Protects Employees from Discrimination Based on their Gender?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal statute that prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees because of their gender, among other characteristics. A discrimination claim can be based on hiring, firing, pay raises, job assignments, promotions, layoffs or reductions in force, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment, because of an employee’s gender.

How Does the Equal Pay Act Protect Women in the Workplace?

Under the Equal Pay Act (EPA), employers are prohibited from paying different wages based on gender. More specifically, the EPA requires both men and women to be paid the same amount for the same work. This applies to jobs that require “substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, which are performed under similar working conditions in the same establishment.” This means their jobs do not have to be identical in every way. In determining whether the jobs are substantially equal, it is the job duties and responsibilities that matter not the job title.

What Defense Might an Employer Use Against Gender Discrimination?

One common defense employers use against claims of discrimination, particularly gender or sex discrimination claims, is the Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) defense. Essentially, employers can argue that a protected characteristic such as gender may be the basis for discrimination when that characteristic “is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise.” However, since the qualification must be reasonably necessary to the business, employers must be able to demonstrate a legitimate business reason for making a distinction between employees that would ordinarily be considered discrimination.

Can Discrimination Claims be Based on Sexual Stereotyping?

Sexual stereotyping is actually a common factor in gender discrimination claims in the workplace. In the legal context, sexual stereotyping refers to situations where employers consider a stereotype associated with one gender when assessing the performance of an employee or when making a hiring decision. More common is the situation where an employer considers sexual stereotyping in doling out punishment. Stereotypes can be based on expected appearance and/or behavior.

Does Title VII Protect Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination?

Federal law, and particularly Title VII, does not explicitly protect against sexual orientation discrimination. First, the language of the statute itself does not mention sexual orientation. Title VII clearly makes it an “unlawful employment practice for any employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual, . . . because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Federal case law on this issue is often conflicting. Although some states have expressed some willingness to recognize sexual orientation discrimination, there has been an unwillingness to pass any type of federal legislation to that effect.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!

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