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.
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.
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.