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Women’s History Month: Sexism in the Workplace

March is Women’s History Month and the perfect time to talk about sexism in the workplace. Sex-based discrimination on the job is a real concern for New Mexican women. It’s also considered a civil rights violation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Just how many women experience inequity in the workplace? According to data from Pew Research, about four in ten working women have faced gender-based discrimination. Discrimination comes in many forms, including earning less than male counterparts to being passed over for a promotion.

If you believe you’re the victim of sexism in the workplace, you have legal options. Working with an experienced civil rights attorney can get you the resolution you seek.

What is sex-based discrimination?

Sex-based discrimination in the workforce takes on many forms, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It includes firing, fringe benefits, hiring, job assignments, layoffs, promotions, and salary.

Sexism in the workplace also includes sexual harassment. Women subjected to unwelcome sexual advances – verbal or physical – have a legitimate complaint. Offensive remarks about your sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy status also fall into this category.

Gender discrimination can lead to a hostile work environment for women.

What constitutes a hostile work environment in New Mexico?

Sometimes sex-based discrimination is so severe it creates a hostile work environment. New Mexico Statute 28-1-7 (2018) defines when sexism in the workplace crosses that line. Herald v. Bd. Of Regents of the Univ. of New Mexico is an example of sex-based discrimination turning a workplace hostile. The presiding judge in the case rules in the defendant’s favor based on three claims:

  • Disparate treatment.
  • Sex discrimination.
  • Retaliation.

There are several signs that a workplace has become antagonistic. Any time you feel uncomfortable, scared, or intimidated by unwelcome conduct from coworkers or supervisors, your workplace meets the legal definition of hostile.

How to prove sex discrimination

When it comes to proving sex discrimination in the workplace, it always comes down to the decision maker’s intent. Can you support your claim that you were overlooked for a promotion or fired from your job based solely on the thinking of the person in charge of the situation? How do you prove what’s inside another person’s head, guiding their choices?

There may be signs and supporting evidence of a person’s intent. Let’s say your boss repeatedly passes you over for a promotion, even though you have more experience and qualifications than the male colleague he instead advances. A pattern of behavior counts as intent. Here’s how you take circumstantial evidence and build your case:

  • Provide evidence you are in a protected class.
  • Provide evidence you were qualified for the promotion.
  • Provide evidence you didn’t get the promotion.
  • Provide evidence the employer promoted someone not in your protected class or left the position unfilled.

There are other kinds of anecdotal evidence you can use to support your case. Maybe your supervisor makes negative, offhand remarks about mothers who work outside the home. Document this kind of behavior. It may be useful if you pursue a gender discrimination case.

Filing a sex discrimination claim in New Mexico

If you’ve decided to pursue a gender bias claim against your employer, speaking to an experienced civil rights attorney is the first crucial step. Your attorney can help you decide whether you should file your complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau or the EEOC. The two agencies have a work-sharing agreement, allowing them to cooperate with each other to process claims.

Acting fast in sex discrimination cases is required under New Mexico Statutes. You have 180 days from the time you believe you were discriminated against for state filing and 300 days for federal filing (EEOC). While it’s not necessary to have an attorney to file a claim with either agency, it is highly recommended.

You also have the option of filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the offender in a sex discrimination case. Consulting with a civil rights attorney helps you identify if this is the best course of action. Some employment contracts call for mandated mediation with an employer before legal action can be pursued. Your attorney can review your case and provide guidance based on your unique situation.

You don’t have to tolerate sexism at work

Sexist attitudes and practices have no place in the 21st century workforce. You don’t have to tolerate sex discrimination that causes a hostile workplace. Part of challenging this kind of toxic workplace culture includes legal recourse.

Reach out to the experienced civil rights attorneys at Cameron and Russell to schedule your case evaluation. We’ll help you rid your office of gender bias so you can get back to working hard.

March 17, 2022