What is Sex Discrimination in the Workplace? - Definition, Laws & Examples

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

It is a violation of federal law for an employer to discriminate against job applicants and employees on the basis of sex. In this lesson, you'll learn about federal sex discrimination laws. A short quiz follows the lesson.

Title VII and Sex Discrimination

Sex discrimination, for purposes of employment law, is treating a job applicant or employee adversely because of the person's gender. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law that prohibits employers from engaging in any discrimination against a job applicant or employee on the basis of sex. Sex discrimination also occurs if an employee or job applicant is discriminated against because of an affiliation with an organization that is associated with people of a particular sex, such as NOW (National Organization for Women). Discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals is also not permitted. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title VII.

There are several ways that sex discrimination might take place in a working environment. Let's go through some of these ways now.

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  • 0:02 Title VII & Sex Discrimination
  • 0:48 Types of Sex Discrimination
  • 3:13 Lesson Summary
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Types of Sex Discrimination

Employment actions: It is a violation of Title VII for an employer to discriminate against job applicants or employees on the basis of sex regarding a broad range of employment activities including hiring, firing, compensation, benefits, work assignments, promotions, training, and any other term or condition of employment. For example, an employer cannot deny employment to an otherwise qualified job applicant because the applicant is a woman or gay.

Sexual Harassment: It is also a violation of Title VII for an employer to harass, or knowingly permit the harassment of, an employee or job applicant based upon the person's sex. The harasser can be a supervisor, some other person from management, a co-worker, or even someone who's not an employee, such as a client or customer. You can generally break sexual harassment into two categories:

1.) Unwelcome sexual advances are one form of sexual harassment. They involve repeated unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors. Quid pro quo (Latin for 'this for that') harassment occurs when a supervisor threatens to adversely affect a person's job if the victim does not submit to the supervisor's sexual advances. The classic example is a boss who demands sex in order for his secretary to keep her job.

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