Workplace Discrimination: Know the Signs and What to Do
As a 29-year-old woman that has been in the workforce for over ten years, I have found myself juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet and many other women in my life have made similar confessions. With more women working multiple jobs now than ever. That means that workplace discrimination cases are on the rise where women are being mistreated due to the “inconvenience” of their womanhood.
Four out of ten women report mistreatment and unfairness due to their gender, whereas only one in twenty men say that they experience this due to being a man. Gender discrimination defined is as “The unequal or disadvantageous treatment of a person based on their gender.” In hindsight, workplace discrimination is more prevalent in women and to protect our rights, we must know the main types of discrimination, and how to deal with them.
Sexual Harassment Discrimination
Sadly, the most generic form of workplace discrimination against women is sexual harassment6. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 81% of women experience sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can mean an array of different things and could include generalized comments about a person’s sex where it is illegal to harass a woman.
Examples of non-physical discriminatory behaviors include:
Unwarranted comments about physical appearance
Snubbing or ignoring
Sexist jokes or humor
Examples of physical sexual harassment behaviors include:
Touching their own or someone else's body parts sexually
Exposing themselves in a sexual way
Grabbing or pulling at clothing to see body parts
Blocking someone's path so that the other person is unable to get away10
What to do if you have these kinds of experiences
If these situations occur, the best solution is to report any sexual discrimination occurrence to management. Do not refrain from telling someone due to fear of losing your job. Terminating or changing the job of the victim is also not permissible and is not a solution. If this happens, it is highly recommended that the employee seeks help from a professional in a higher position in Human Resources. Human Resource professionals are there to protect the rights of an employee and encourage those who experience sexual misconduct to disclose their situation.
Equal Pay and Compensation Discrimination
In one incident that was filed on March 18, 2021, a female bank manager was getting paid less than a man in the same position who was hired years after her. In 2010 a woman was hired making a salary of $36,000 and in 2016, she was making $41,014. In that same year, she learned that a man was hired in the same position starting out with $48,014. When she asked about the discrepancy, the bank refused to disclose any information and she soon after resigned.
Equal pay and compensation discrimination happen frequently in the workplace, with salary discrepancies between male and female employees. Don't stay silent about it; take action to address the issue.
If carrying and growing life within one's body is not challenging enough, try holding a job and dealing with the possibility of the discrimination that may come along with it. There are two laws that fall under the pregnancy discrimination act.
The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes pregnant women under these circumstances: Potential pregnancy, past pregnancy, current pregnancy, a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, having or choosing not to have an abortion, and birth control. Americans with Disabilities Act is a law that prohibits discrimination against an employee based on the person's inability to work due to pregnancy-related diseases such as diabetes that develop during pregnancy.
If you're a working woman, don't let pregnancy-related discrimination harm your career. Understand the laws that protect you, and report any unwarranted changes in treatment from your employer.
Caregiving Responsibilities Discrimination
Although men‘s responsibilities in caregiving have increased, women remain likely to be the primary caregivers of those who need it in their families. As an employee who has responsibilities caring for others outside of work, it is wrong for an employer or manager to assume that women who work part-time are less committed than employees who work full-time.
Employers should implement flexible policies for a healthy work-life balance. Doing this could enhance productivity and decrease the number of callouts and it could also reduce turnover rates. In the hiring or recruitment process, employers should ask questions about the individual’s skills in hopes of aligning with the company. It is a red flag If they inquire about the future of a family, pregnancy, or caregiving and it is out of that employer's authority to do so.
Break Time for Nursing Mothers' Discrimination
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, women who nurse, have the right to a reasonable break time and place other than a bathroom for milk retrieval at work. For one year after childbirth, the mother can express milk when necessary.
The time needed for nursing varies for each person and should be discussed with the employer. The employer may not deny the employee a lactation break if the employee is covered. Employees must also be provided with a space other than a bathroom for the process and it must be in private and away from the public where employees cannot easily impose.
Putting it all together
Whether a female is nursing, pregnant, caregiving, getting paid less, or being sexually harassed, existing as a woman in the workplace leaves plenty of opportunity for these challenges. It is never ok for others to single out a woman nonetheless, but this happens frequently.
Staying silent to keep the peace may be the easiest strategy but a temporary band-aid for a short-term solution to a huge problem. Being more aware of discrimination at a company can help identify these problems. It may even help to be proactive about pursuing these situations, in the event that they are being experienced. Either way, in 2023, women now have more leverage when faced with discrimination and can get support when it is needed.