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Sex Discrimination - FAQs

Select any of the questions below to get quick answers to some common questions about sex discrimination.

  1. What are some examples of sexual harassment?
  2. Are men protected from sex discrimination and harassment?
  3. Is it illegal to be discriminated against or harassed at work because of your sexual orientation or gender identity?
  4. What are some examples of discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation?
  5. What are some examples of discrimination or harassment based on gender identity?
  6. Is it illegal for someone to discriminate against or harass someone of his or her own sex?
  7. Is it illegal for someone to discriminate against or harass certain males or females, but not others?
  8. Is it illegal to be discriminated against or harassed because of your sex and some other prohibited reason, like religion or race?
  9. Can an employer discriminate against married or unmarried women and men?
  10. Can an employer require females to work with only female customers and males to work with only male customers?
  11. Can an employer label certain jobs as "male" or "female" jobs?
  12. What if I am harassed at work because I am male or female, but the conduct is not sexual in nature?
  13. Is it sexual harassment if someone I used to date won't leave me alone at work?
  14. Can my employer pay me less than members of the opposite sex who perform the same job?
  15. Can my employer punish me for reporting what I think is sex discrimination?

1. What are some examples of sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment involves unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in the workplace. The harasser, as well as the victim, can be a male or female. The harasser can be your supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who does not work for your employer, such as a client or customer. Sexual harassment can include sexual comments, jokes, pressure for dates or sexual favors, sexual touching, sexual gestures, or sexual graffiti, cartoons or pictures. Sexual harassment can also include non-sexual conduct that is based on your gender, such as comments about certain types of jobs being "women's work."


2. Are men protected from sex discrimination and harassment?

Yes. Both men and women are protected from discrimination and harassment on the basis of sex at work.


3. Is it illegal to be discriminated against or harassed at work because of your sexual orientation or gender identity?

Yes. Title VII prohibits discrimination and harassment based on sex. This includes discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.


4. What are some examples of discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation?

Examples of sexual orientation harassment include offensive jokes or comments related to sexual orientation, homophobic slurs or name calling, and unwelcome touching or sexual gestures. Sexual orientation discrimination may include, for example, firing or demoting employees because of their sexual orientation or because they threatened to take legal action because of unfair treatment at work related to their sexual orientation.


5. What are some examples of discrimination or harassment based on gender identity?

Gender identity harassment may include repeated, deliberate use of the wrong name or gender pronouns (such as he or she), shaming an employee for not acting or dressing in a way that reflects the sex the employee was assigned at birth, refusing to allow an employee to use the restroom associated with the gender the employee identifies with, or other offensive comments or conduct related to gender identity. Examples of gender identity discrimination include refusing to hire an applicant after learning about the applicant’s gender identity, refusing to allow an employee to use the restroom associated with the gender the employee identifies with, firing an employee for announcing plans to transition, or requiring employees to appear at work as the gender they were assigned at birth.


6. Is it illegal for someone to discriminate against or harass someone of his or her own sex?

Yes. It is illegal for individuals to discriminate against or harass people of their own gender. A man may not discriminate against or harass another man because of his sex and a woman may not discriminate against or harass another woman because of her sex.


7. Is it illegal for someone to discriminate against or harass certain males or females, but not others?

Yes. It is illegal for someone to discriminate against or harass a sub-set of a protected group. For example, a manager may not treat Black females differently than Black males based on a sexual stereotype.


8. Is it illegal to be discriminated against or harassed because of your sex and some other prohibited reason, like religion or race?

Yes. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against you because of the combination of your sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity) and some other protected category, like religion or race. For example, it is illegal for a company to refuse to hire Muslim women, even if they hire other women and Muslim men. Or, for example, it is illegal for a company to allow transgender Black employees to be harassed at work, even if the company takes appropriate action to stop harassment of other Black or transgender employees.


9. Can an employer discriminate against married or unmarried women and men?

The laws enforced by EEOC do not prohibit discrimination based on marital status, although some state and local laws may. However, it is unlawful sex discrimination for an employer to have a policy which forbids or restricts the employment of married women if the rule is not also applicable to married men.


10. Can an employer require females to work with only female customers and males to work with only male customers?

Generally no. An employer may not rely on co-worker, customer, or client preference for a male or female. In some very limited circumstances, however, an employer may be able to select an individual for a job assignment based on sex. For example, an employer in the health care field may grant a patient's request for an attendant of the same sex to assist them with bathing, without violating the law.


11. Can an employer label certain jobs as "male" or "female" jobs?

As a general matter, an employer cannot label certain jobs as "male" or "female" jobs. For example, it would be unlawful for a temporary employment agency to tell a female applicant that it only refers males to factory jobs.


12. What if I am harassed at work because I am male or female, but the conduct is not sexual in nature?

Sexual harassment can take many forms. It may be sexual in nature or it may be based on the sex of the employee. Either way, this type of conduct is illegal. For example, if a manager frequently tells female employees they belong at home, the manager has engaged in harassment based on sex.


13. Is it sexual harassment if someone I used to date won't leave me alone at work?

It may be if you make clear to the person you used to date and your company that you are no longer interested in a relationship. If the person persists in seeking to continue the relationship or in making sexual advances or comments to you, you may have a potential claim for sexual harassment.


14. Can my employer pay me less than members of the opposite sex who perform the same job?

An employer may not pay women and men who perform the same job at the same location differently because of sex. All forms of pay and benefits are covered, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowance, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits. If there is a difference in pay between men and women, an employer may not equalize the wages by reducing the wages of those employees who are being paid more.


15. Can my employer punish me for reporting what I think is sex discrimination?

No. It is illegal for your employer to punish you, treat you differently, or harass you because you report discrimination to someone at your company, to EEOC, or to your parents, your teacher, or another trusted adult. This is true even if it turns out that the conduct you complained about is not found to be discrimination. We refer to this as your right to be protected from retaliation.