Definition of Sex Discrimination

Employers may not make employment decisions based on an applicant’s or employee’s sex (gender) or discriminate against one sex with respect to the terms and conditions of employment. Claims in this area arise out of allegations that an employer has engaged in discriminatory job assignments, classifications, layoffs, pay and promotion practices due to sex, or stereotypical assumptions based on gender. Also, work rules that are not discriminatory on their face but adversely affect one sex are lawful only if “manifestly related to the job” or if they “significantly further an important business purpose,” such as height requirements for flight attendants.252 Some other potential sex discrimination claims include the following:

Minnesota Fetal Protection Policies

Some employers have, in the past, restricted the jobs available to pregnant women and women of childbearing age because they believed that those jobs may be harmful to an existing or future fetus. Such “fetal protection” policies have been declared unlawful as discriminatory against women on the basis of sex.253 Fetal protection policies will be permissible only under extremely limited circumstances, and any employer considering such a policy is urged to seek legal counsel and the expert advice of an occupational safety expert. Employers whose employees work in such potentially hazardous positions should also seek legal advice as to steps that they can take to avoid liability in such situations.

Male Sex Discrimination | Reverse Sexual Discrimination

As state and federal civil rights laws have opened up new opportunities for women in the workplace, women are now advancing into supervisory roles and constitute a majority in some workplaces. In addition, males are more frequently working at traditionally female jobs, such as nursing. Consequently, there has been an increase in claims of sex discrimination against males and even sexual harassment against males. Employers should be aware of these potential claims.

Equal Pay For Equal Work

In addition to the prohibition against sex discrimination set forth in the federal Equal Pay Act254 and in the discrimination laws, Minnesota’s Equal Pay for Equal Work law255 prohibits employers from paying different wages to employees of the opposite sex for equal work on jobs which require the same skills, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions. Differences in payment may be made pursuant to a seniority system, a merit system, or any other system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or any other factor except for sex.256 Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against employees who have filed complaints or have testified in investigations pursuant to the Equal Pay for Equal Work law.

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

On January 29, 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act became law. This law extends the statutory time limit for filing pay discrimination claims, declaring that each paycheck following an initial discriminatory pay decision creates a new unlawful employment practice. This means that employees can recover back pay for up to two years preceding the filing of a discrimination claim and it significantly extends the time period during which employees may file wage discrimination claims. This may also permit retirees to sue for pay-related discrimination if they currently receive a pension or health care that may have been affected by discrimination. The effect of this law will be seen as court decisions refine its application in the future.

If you have been the victim of sex discrimination in the workplace, call (612) 466-0010 to speak with an experienced employment law attorney.

One Comment

  1. More of a question than a comment, my employer has only recently been raising the issue of me wearing earrings. I have been employed by the company for nearly three years now.

    All the female employees have pierced ears, and I have had mine pierced since 1985.

    I, personally, see this as a form of sexual discrimination, being male I am being told not to wear earrings, simple starter studs for the record, while the female employees are wearing hoops and “dangling” styles.

    What are my options should the company press the issue?

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