Gender and Sex Discrimination
Our Massachusetts employment discrimination lawyers represent employees who have been subjected to sex and gender discrimination in their workplaces. While most gender discrimination claims are brought on behalf of women who face discrimination or sexual harassment, state and federal laws related to gender discrimination may also apply to protect men facing discrimination based on sex and to protect lesbian, gay, or transgender employees.
An employer engages in unlawful discrimination when it when it takes an adverse action against an employee because of that employee’s sex. An adverse action may include decisions regarding hiring, promotion, salary, benefits, work responsibilities, or any other action that affects the terms and conditions of employment. Gender discrimination and sexual harassment permeate many professions. Gender discrimination claims are routinely brought by women working in the service industry, state and municipal government, and traditionally male-dominated fields such as aviation, construction, and engineering. Workplaces that involve highly-educated professionals and are managed by sophisticated human resources departments, such as employers in technology, law, finance and banking, healthcare, and higher education, are not immune to gender discrimination, particularly as women advance up the corporate ladder.
Although severe forms of sexual harassment, including rape, sexual assault, and improper sexual touching make the news headlines, it is important to recognize that gender-based discrimination, on its own, without any sexual component to it, is no less damaging. Gender-based harassment in the form of actions and comments that unfairly criticize or single out individuals on the basis of their sex create a hostile climate that impedes workers’ abilities to progress in their careers and affect their day-to-day working conditions. Both men and women may experience gender-based harassment or discrimination in the workplace.
To win a discrimination claim, an employee does not need smoking gun evidence in the form of a document or witness testimony that shows that an employer refuses to hire or promote employees due to their gender. Instead, an employee can show that an employer relied on gendered stereotypes about the skills or capabilities of applicants or employees. For example, an employer is not permitted to assume that a female employee is not be committed to her job or is not able to handle new responsibilities or a promotion because she is married, pregnant, breastfeeding, or has childcare responsibilities. An employer also cannot punish a male employee for taking an active parenting role in defiance of traditional gender stereotypes. Likewise, an employer is not allowed to make adverse employment decisions based on gendered assumptions about a woman’s capabilities and management style, i.e., assigning leadership responsibilities to male employees while assigning clerical work to female employees, or disciplining and criticizing a female manager for being too assertive while praising male managers for similar behavior. Circumstantial evidence can also include evidence about how an employer treats similarly-situated employees of the opposite sex and statistical evidence related to hiring and promotion decisions by gender.
Some of our most hard-fought cases involve claims of gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Employers often minimize or attempt to conceal the misconduct to protect the bad actors or their own reputations, and they tend to fight these types of claims because they do not want to admit that they have somehow allowed a discriminatory environment to persist. Public accusations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment impact companies’ abilities to recruit and retain talent and may result in public backlash by their client or customer base. Employers may also retaliate against employees making discrimination complaints in an attempt to discourage them from filing complaints, which may give employees further legal claims under state or federal law.
Our Boston gender discrimination lawyers have settled or litigated many cases involving serious claims of gender and sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexually hostile work environments. We have won substantial jury verdicts involving gender discrimination, including a $7.6 million jury verdict involving race and gender discrimination and retaliation claims against the MBTA and a $2.2 million jury verdict on behalf of a female police officer in a gender discrimination and retaliation case against a police union. We have also settled many cases for six- and even seven-figure amounts involving claims of sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, equal pay, and gender discrimination in a variety of sectors, including banking and finance, higher education, law, municipal and state government, technology, and healthcare.
If you believe you have been discriminated against due to your gender, please contact our Boston sex discrimination lawyers as soon as possible at (617) 742-6020 or by filling out the online contact form.