The Gender Equality laws in the US: Facts and Statistics
Sex discrimination is defined as treating someone unfavorably because of that person's gender. Discrimination against an individual because of gender or gender identity is illegal in the US, or a Federal level. The law forbids discrimination related to any aspect of employment, including hiring and firing, salary, nature of job assignments, promotions, training, benefits, and any other aspect or condition of employment. Harassment can include sexual harassment, unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other related verbal or physical harassment. If the harassment is not sexual in nature, but includes offensive remarks about a person's sex, it is also illegal. These laws apply to situations where the harasser is male or female, and situations where the harasser is the same sex as the victim. In work settings, simple teasing or isolated incidents are usually not covered under gender discrimination law, and the plaintiff needs to be able to prove that the situation was discriminatory in nature. Harassment is illegal, however, when it is significant enough to create a hostile or offensive work environment, or when it results in an negative employment decision, such as the victim being fired, passed over for a promotion, or demoted. A universal employment policy or practice can be illegal if it has a negative impact on the experience of a certain gender, and is not job-related, or vital to the operation of the business.
The Employment discrimination law
Employment discrimination law, including its gender provisions, comes largely from the US Civil Rights Act (1964), and from additional county and municipality ordinances. These laws forbid discrimination against certain characteristics and protected categories – this includes gender. The US Constitution also bans discrimination by Federal and State governments against public employees. There are additional Federal and State laws that prohibit gender discrimination in the private business sector. Federal provisions include prohibiting gender discrimination in recruiting and hiring, job reviews, advancement policies, training, pay and disciplinary action. State laws often extend protections to additional categories or employers. The Pregnancy Discrimination act makes it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. The law also prohibits retaliation against a person because the person reposted discrimination, filed a charge, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or legal case. Finally, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 makes it illegal to pay differing wages to men and women if they perform equal work in the same workplace.
U.S. Supreme Court cases involving Women’s Rights and Gender Discrimination
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard and ruled on many significant cases related to gender discrimination, which are summarized below. Today, these provide important benchmarks to other gender discrimination cases.
- Cleveland Bd. of Ed. v. LaFleur (1974) The Supreme Court ruled that Ohio public school mandatory maternity leave guidelines for pregnant teachers violate constitutional guarantees of due process.
- Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson (1986) The Court held that a claim of "hostile environment" sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that may be brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- Johnson v. Transportation Agency (1987) The Court ruled that a county transportation agency appropriately took in account an employee's sex as one factor in determining whether she should be promoted.
- Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools (1992) The Court decided that an award of money damages is possible in a case brought to enforce Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, alleging sexual harassment and abuse by a teacher.
- J.E.B. v. Alabama ex rel T.B., (1994) The Court held that prosecutors may not use preemptory challenges to dismiss jurors based on their sex.
- United States v. Virginia (1996) The Court found that sex-based "separate but equal" military training facilities violated the Equal Protection Clause.
- Faragher v. City of Boca Raton (1998) The Court decided that an employer may be liable for sexual discrimination caused by a supervisor, but liability depends on the reasonableness of the employer's conduct, as well as the reasonableness of the plaintiff victim's conduct.
- Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Serv., Inc. (1998) The Supreme Court held that sex discrimination consisting of same-sex sexual harassment can form the basis for a valid claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (1999) The Court ruled that a lawsuit under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 may be filed against a school board based on student-on-student sexual harassment, if the board is deliberately indifferent to sexual harassment, has actual knowledge of the harassment, and the harassment is so serious that it deprives the victims of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school.
Gender Discrimination Statistics in the US
The gender discrimination statistics in the US show that sex discrimination remains a hot button issue that carries an impact to the lives of many Americans. 42% of surveyed employed women in the US say they have experienced some form of gender discrimination in the workplace, as do 22% of surveyed men. 74% of women who are Democrats say the country hasn’t gone far enough on gender equality, compared with 33% of women who are Republican. 41% of women say men have it easier than women, and 28% of men agree. 5% of women and 14% of men say women have it easier than men. A high 73% of surveyed men and women see gender discrimination in the technology industry as at least a minor problem. Looking at professional pay, women make up 63% of workers earning the federal minimum wage, but only 5% of CEOs at Fortune 500 firms. Men make up the majority of top earners across the U.S., even though women now represent almost half of the country’s workforce. Among the top 1% of earners, women make up slightly less than 17% of workers, while at the top 0.1% level, they make up only 11%.