For the past several months, the news has been full of reports of women (and men) raising complaints of gender discrimination and sexual harassment. But are these isolated incidents, or a glimpse at a bigger, societal problem? A survey by the Pew Research Center says that nearly half, 42%, of women report gender discrimination at work.
In this blog post, I will review the Pew Research Center gender discrimination survey. I will describe what gender discrimination at work looks like, and what women (and men) can do if they believe they are being treated improperly.
Pew Research Center Survey Says Gender Discrimination Predates #MeToo Movement
In December, 2017, the Pew Research Center released survey results showing that 4 in 10 women have faced workplace discrimination because of their gender. Survey results included everything from small slights to overt sexual harassment. Lest readers think that this high frequency is due to all the recent publicity of gender discrimination issues, Pew made clear that the survey was conducted between July 11 and August 10, 2017 — months before the #MeToo movement was making headlines. The survey shows that gender discrimination issues are widespread, and are much more than simply the issue of the moment.
25% of Women Report Wage Discrimination
One of the largest areas of concern was wage discrimination. Gender-based pay gaps were a concern for one in four working women, who said they have earned less than a man in the same position. Only 5% of men report making less than a female coworker.
The Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act make it illegal for employers to pay women less for the same work as men. This includes everything from salary or hourly wage to bonuses and benefit packages. When an employer uses gender biases to set compensation, employees are entitled to file a complaint with the EEOC to receive additional compensation.
However, the issue of wage discrimination can be complicated by defenses that the employer based compensation on seniority, assignments, employment history, or other gender-neutral factors. When an employee determines that they are being paid less than their other-gendered coworkers, they should talk to an employment discrimination attorney to develop a strong case for wage discrimination.
Women 4 Times as Likely as Men to Experience Competence Questions and Subtle Slights at Work
Pew reports that 23% of women have been treated as though they were not competent at work (compared to 6% of men). 16% reported repeated small slights on the job, and 15% reported receiving less support from senior leaders at work. 10% have been passed over for important assignments.
These apparent small slights are often not enough to prove gender discrimination on their own. Title VII gender discrimination claims must show that gender-based treatment has become so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile work environment that would negatively affect a reasonable employee.
However, small slights like shift and task assignments or comments about a person’s competence are often signs of bigger problems bubbling just below the surface. An experienced gender discrimination attorney can help employees gather the proof and connect the dots to put together a successful case for gender discrimination under Title VII.
22% of Women Have Personally Experienced Sexual Harassment
The Pew survey distinguished between sexual harassment and the broader issue of gender discrimination. Legally speaking, sexual harassment can occur when employment decisions are made based on a person’s refusal of sexual advances by a superior or coworker. Sexual harassment claims also arise when an employer fails to respond to employee complaints about repeated sexual misconduct or unwanted advances in the workplace.
This is where the #MeToo movement has had the biggest effect on later survey results. An ABC News/Washington Post survey conducted in October found much higher numbers, including 54% of women saying they had received unwanted sexual advances. 30% of these happened at work. An NPR poll in November revealed 35% of women had personally experienced sexual harassment.
Depending on the severity of the sexual harassment, it may only take a single act to establish a Title VII complaint. For example, being fired for refusing sex is itself a strong basis for a sexual harassment claim. In other cases, though, a successful sexual harassment claim is made up of a number of less serious unwanted sexual statements or actions. A sexual harassment attorney can help you develop your strongest case and get the relief you need.
Gender discrimination and sexual harassment are problems that affect women and men in every industry, all across the country. More than just a social media movement, these issues have far ranging effects, touching nearly half of all women who work. At Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, our experienced gender discrimination and sexual harassment attorneys have been working to protect the civil rights of women, minorities, and workers for decades. We know what it takes to bring a Title VII case, and we can help you get relief, rather than simply counting yourself as part of the statistics. Contact us to schedule a consultation.