What are Gender Discrimination Lawsuits?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

Gender discrimination lawsuits claim that an organization with a legal obligation to treat both men and women equally has knowingly and intentionally failed to uphold this duty. In most cases, gender discrimination lawsuits involve prejudicial treatment against women, though some cases do involve prejudice against men. Gender discrimination lawsuits can only occur in regions that have laws specifying the equal or fair treatment of both genders, which is by no means a globally accepted concept.

Gender discrimination lawsuits can only occur in regions practicing laws that address the fair treatment of both genders.
Gender discrimination lawsuits can only occur in regions practicing laws that address the fair treatment of both genders.

Regions that do have gender equality rules tend to insist that certain organizations, primarily state-run enterprises such as schools, and private businesses, cannot discriminate based on gender. Discrimination may include the prevention of equal access to opportunities and programs, or prejudicial treatment based on gender. Businesses accused of gender discrimination are usually accused of unfair wage, hiring, or promotion practices that favor one gender over the other. Schools accused of gender discrimination may fall into the category of unequal access, such as not permitting students of one gender to be involved in school activities.

Documented incidents of sexual harassment might be used in a gender discrimination lawsuit.
Documented incidents of sexual harassment might be used in a gender discrimination lawsuit.

Winning gender discrimination lawsuits for the plaintiff generally involves building a case that shows the willful mistreatment of one gender by a significant portion of the management of a company or organization. Some warning signs of discrimination that can play significant parts in a case may include the ratio of workers of one gender to management of the same gender, comparative pay rates for equal jobs, hiring practices, and any records of employees being fired or demoted after complaining of discrimination. In some cases, documented instances of physical, verbal, and sexual harassment toward one gender may also play a significant part in the case. Since gender discrimination lawsuits are typically under the jurisdiction of civil court, the plaintiffs must also be able to show measurable harm, such as to income or career prospects, that has been caused by discriminatory behavior.

Other practices that may bring about gender discrimination lawsuits include the creation of a work environment that is verbally or physically hostile to members of one gender, gender-restricted access to work facilities, training programs, or fringe benefits, and discrimination based on pregnancy. Pregnancy discrimination cases may also violate medical and family leave laws that prohibit the firing of or refusal of benefits to workers who are pregnant or undergo childbirth. Judgments against organizations using discriminatory practices can cost hundreds of millions of dollars in legal costs and damages, and may result in irreparable damage to the company's reputation. For this reason, many companies create strict anti-discrimination policies, both to avoid lawsuits and to ensure an equal opportunity workplace for all employees.

Misogyny is used to refer to any case in which women face discrimination.
Misogyny is used to refer to any case in which women face discrimination.
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments

KoiwiGal

@irontoenail - I read a study recently that claimed that females were far more likely to be interrupted while talking than men in the same position. Even female doctors were more likely to be interrupted by patients and female patients were less likely to interrupt.

I'm sure if you asked anyone involved in the study if they were aware of doing this, they wouldn't be at all. But that doesn't mean that it isn't a form of discrimination.

irontoenail

@MrsPramm - It's just as important to note that gender discrimination isn't always going to be based around sexuality either. It's often based around attitudes towards perceived female roles in society (like a boss believing there's no point in promoting a woman when she might decide to get pregnant and leave).

The other thing is, sexual harassment is often far more noticeable by everyone involved than discrimination can be. A woman might not even know she was earning less than men in the same role (they might have no idea of this either).

It's even conceivable that the person who is discriminating might not realize it. People often don't notice their own patterns of behavior until they are pointed out.

MrsPramm

I think it's important to draw a distinction between sexual harassment and gender discrimination because they are not the same thing, even if they are often associated with each other. Men can be sexually harassed by women. Women can be sexually harassed by other women. This is a particular kind of harassment which might be encouraged by an overall policy or attitude towards a particular gender, but isn't necessarily related.

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