Gender Identity Rights: Combating Sex Discrimination at Work Through Legal Advocacy

Despite the laws enforced over the years regarding gender equality in the workplace, most studies and statistics show that lesbian, gay, bi, queer, trans, and intersex (LGBTQI) still experience widespread stigma and discrimination at work.

According to a recent post published by American Progress, roughly 1 in 3 LGBTQ Americans faced workplace discrimination in the past years, which affected their mental and economic well-being.

While workplace discrimination is unlawful in all forms, most people fail to stand against it because they are unaware of their rights.

In this article, you will learn everything about gender discrimination in the workplace. We’ll also walk you through your gender identity rights and how to combat sex discrimination through legal advocacy.

What is Gender Discrimination at Work? How Does it Look Like?

While gender and sex are two different things, they are often interchangeably used. Gender discrimination refers to the unfair treatment or unequal consideration of individuals based on sex and relationship preferences.

It occurs when individuals of a particular gender, such as “men that consider themselves as gay,” are treated less favorably or given fewer opportunities solely because of their choices.

In the workplace, sex discrimination may involve practices such as hiring, promotion, and pay decisions that favor one gender over another without any justifiable reason.

Some common examples of gender discrimination:

The Pay Gap

Many workplaces or companies are not transparent about the amount they pay their employees or the factors these decisions are based on. Still, it is illegal for California employers to discriminate against a worker based on their sex and other protected characteristics.

While every organization claims that the pay gap does not exist in their workplace, the statistics have something else to say. As per an article published in HRC, LGBTQ+ workers earn 90 cents for every dollar their typical coworkers make for doing the same work.

Despite having the same qualifications as other employees and doing the same job, LGBTQ +workers received less salary, which indicates discrimination on the basis of sexual preferences.


Nearly half of LGBT employees have experienced unfair treatment at work at some point in their lives. In 2017, only 16.5% of the total sexual harassment cases filed by EEOC came from men, and the rest percentage constituted women and people of other gender identities.

Even though it does not necessarily have to be of sexual nature, gender discrimination occurs in many forms, such as verbal misconduct or sexual favors. It often targets women, but recent stats show that transgender and other gender minorities are also not at large with their negative effects.

Representation in Senior Management

The number of LGBTQ+ individuals leading senior management roles has increased, said McKinsey in a research article. However, the progress has been very gradual, with a fewer number of women making it to the top level of management compared to men.

The research article further added that the representation of LGBTQ+ and women begins to drop off starting with the first promotion to the manager level. Thus underrepresentation often makes most LGBTQ+ and female employees feel isolated in the workplace, which is a violation of their rights.

Sex discrimination at work is far beyond these examples. If you think that your progress at work is affected because of your gender identity and how your employer treats you, it is crucial to consult a discrimination lawyer in Los Angeles

What Are The Laws Around Gender Identity Discrimination?

There are several state and federal laws that protect employees from gender identity discrimination. Generally, federal law applies to employers with 15 or more employees, but some California laws cover small employers as well. Here are some of the federal and state laws that every employee must know about:

Federal Laws

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

This act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against their employees based on sex, age, race, and other protected characteristics. As of June 2020, a ruling by Supreme Court extended this protection to also cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

It is unlawful for an employer to use these grounds to fire, demote, pay less, or refuse other employment benefits to a worker.

💡 An Important Note

Title VII only applies to employers, and you cannot sue an individual person for employment discrimination if they are not your employer. For example- if a worker is discriminated against in the workplace by a customer, it will not come under Title VII. 

Equal Pay Act of 1963

The EPA aims to eliminate disparities based on sexual orientation. The act requires employers to pay all employees equally, regardless of gender, for the equal work they have performed.

The jobs being compared must involve similar skills, effort, and responsibilities to be performed under similar working conditions.

Pay differentials are only permitted provided they are based on factors other than gender, such as merit, seniority, and the quantity/quality of production or other legitimate non-discriminatory factors.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978

The PDA amended Title VII to prohibit discrimination against a particular sex based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. It forbids employers from treating pregnant employees differently from other employees.

The act covers various aspects and protects pregnant workers from hiring, firing, promotion, leave policies, and health benefits-related issues.

👉Must Read: What Rights Do Pregnant Women Have at Work in California?

State Laws (California Specific)

Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)

California’s FEHA is a comprehensive law that prohibits discrimination, workplace harassment (unwelcome sexual advances), and retaliation in the workplace. The act applies to every employer with 5 or more employees.

FEHA covers a wide range of employment practices, including hiring, promotion, compensation, benefits, and working conditions. Besides gender discrimination, employees in California are also protected from sexual or physical harassment.

California Equal Pay Act (CEPA)

CEPA expanded on the federal Equal Pay Acts and provided additional protections against gender-based wage disparities. The act makes it mandatory for employers to pay their workers equally for performing the same task requiring similar effort and qualification.

CEPA prohibits employers in the state from paying different wages based on gender. Additionally, it imposes strict liability on employers who pay their employees differently and illegally.

California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

CFRA is a state-specific law that provides job-protected leave to eligible employees. The act applies to both men and women, including same-sex couples.

Employers cannot discriminate against any employee if they ask for leave under CFRA. For example- a women employee cannot be fired illegally if she requests leave for reasons such as bonding with a new child or taking care of an ill family member.

What Are Your Gender Identity Rights?

Regardless of whatever gender identity an employee identifies as, in California, every employee has certain gender rights they can freely practice as long as it is done lawfully. An employer cannot take adverse action against the employee because they have the right to:

  • Work in a Safe Environment

According to the law, your employer is required to provide you with a safe working environment that is free from discrimination. The workplace should not be hostile to any employee based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex.

  • Talk About Gender Discrimination

You have the right to talk or speak about discrimination happening at your workplace with anyone, including the supervisor or coworkers. As an employee, you also have the right to tell your employer about gender discrimination along with the reason, such as company policies or practices.

It is unlawful for the employer to retaliate against you when you report discrimination at work. Retaliating against you can invite legal troubles for your employer, and you can file a complaint with administrative authorities such as Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC.

  • Report the Discriminatory Behavior

The first POC (point of contact) for any employee to report sex discrimination should be the HR or the committee made by the employer. You have the right to file a complaint with HR regarding the discriminatory behavior to bring the misconduct by your manager or supervisor to light.

✍️ Note

Make sure to submit your complaint in writing (letter or e-mail) and ask HR for a receipt. Make copies of the complaint, and you can use them as evidence when taking legal action. 


While picketing or protesting against discrimination might not seem like one, it is the right of every employee. If you or other employees in your company raise concerns about the working conditions and pay gap due to discrimination, you are engaging in “concerted activity.”

The National Labor Relations Act offers protection to workers that engage in such activities and protest against their employees due to discriminatory or other illegal acts.

See Your Personnel File and Make a Copy of It

Sometimes discrimination can lead to retaliation, and the negative action of the employer might include termination of a job or demotion.

Whether or not this is the case, every California employee has the right to see their personnel file, which could contain details like pay history, performance evaluations, and other useful information.

File a Charge or Complaint

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of gender discrimination, you have the right to file a charge or complaint with a federal and state government agency such as EEOC.

Since you are a California employee, you can also file your complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). You also have the legal right to inform your employer about filing a complaint, and they cannot retaliate against you.

Importance of Statute of Limitations

When filing a complaint, you must adhere to the statute of limitations. For example, sometimes employees only get 180 to 300 days from the day the incident happened to report it to a government authority. Seek legal advice from a professional employment lawyer in Los Angeles about the statute of limitations and file a complaint.

How to Handle and Report Sex Discrimination at Work: The Legal Route

Have you decided to raise your voice against the misconduct or discriminatory behavior by your employer? Well, you can combat sex discrimination at work by following the legal route and through legal advocacy. Here are your available options:

Review Your Employer’s Policy

Although California employers are not required to have an employee handbook, they must notify their employees of certain rights. Review the handbook if there is any or go through this list of your rights to find out policies about discrimination.

Also, assess your employer’s complaint process, and note down the deadlines. If you do not find any details regarding filing a complaint, see if the HR’s number is available.

Note Everything Down

Proving sex or gender discrimination can be daunting because everything depends on the evidence. Employment lawyers in Orange County recommend employees write everything down about the discriminatory behavior and the steps they took, such as approaching HR.

Making notes also helps you establish a link between the actions of your employer and the negative action they have taken against you if there exists a case of retaliation.

Do not forget to include witness statements, such as your coworker’s statements, that prove you are a victim of workplace discrimination.

Seek Help from the HR Department

It is important for every employee to tell their employer about the misconduct, whether or not they want to file a complaint with an administrative agency. If you do not feel safe or comfortable telling your HR in person, you can use other modes of communication to bring the issue into the limelight.

Hershey Law Recommends Putting Your Concerns or Complaints in Writing

As a reputable employment law firm in San Diego, we understand the weight written documents can bring to your claim. You either can put your complaint into an email or a letter, so as to use its copy as evidence.

Make sure to create copies of the response you have received from HR, such as a receipt that they’ve received your mail and are looking into the matter.

If you are using a verbal mode of communication, such as a phone call, make notes of the conversation. Tell your HR that you are recording the conversation or taking notes from it because it is important, according to California law.

Speak to a Discrimination Lawyer

When you choose the legal route to fight against gender discrimination, you will need a qualified employment lawyer by your side. From helping you gather evidence to filing complaints with the right authorities, attorneys help you navigate through the complex legal process.

The lawyers will also tell you whether you can stand a case against the employer or if there is insufficient evidence. Negotiation with your employer is also something only a smart lawyer can assist you with.

File a Complaint

If the HR department has failed to resolve your claim, you can file a complaint with EEOC or any other California state department that oversees such complaints. Since you have hired a lawyer, make a strong file to ensure you present all evidence before the jury hearing your case.

What Could Happen if You Appoint a Lawyer for Your Sex Discrimination Claim?

When you choose legal advocacy to battle sex discrimination at work, there are multiple remedies you can ask for, such as financial compensation and changing the employer’s policies.

The damages the jury rewards you depend on the specifics of your case, such as the action taken by the employer against you and the extent of the discrimination.

Here are some common things that could happen if you file a complaint against your employer with the help of a lawyer.

Compensation for Economic Losses

If the gender discrimination caused a loss of income or your employer wrongfully terminated your services, you can seek financial compensation.

According to some employment laws, you could also seek compensation for the economic damages you have suffered because of any medical or health treatment you needed because of retaliation or discrimination.


If your employer terminated you or forced you out because of your gender or sex, you can potentially get reinstated in your position. However, it will depend on how your employment lawyer proves it to the court and the jury’s decision.

Compensation for Emotional Distress

Discrimination in any form often includes stress, anguish, anxiety, pain, suffering, loss of reputation, and more. If you prove these sufferings were a result of discrimination at the workplace, you may seek compensation for them as well.

Punitive Damages

If agencies like EEOC cannot resolve your claim, you can sue the employer in court. With the help of an employment attorney, you may get a jury or the court to order that the company pay punitive damages.

It means punishing the employer for their wrongdoing in any form, such as a penalty.

Hershey Law- We Stand With You Against Sex Discrimination

Do you feel your gender or sexual orientation is why you are treated or paid differently at work? It might be a case of gender discrimination, and you must stand against it.

At Hershey Law, we are highly-qualified employment attorneys ready to assist you with your discrimination claim. We are not afraid of big names and can help you from the start to the end of your case.

Contact us today at 310-929-2190 and book a free consultation with our discrimination attorneys.