Proving Gender Discrimination

Jul 05, 2017
By Peter Friedmann

Despite more than 50 years of federal and Ohio state laws being enacted to prevent it, gender discrimination remains pervasive in nearly all facets of American life. Equally distressing, proving one has been discriminated against because of one’s gender remains exceedingly difficult.


The Columbus, Ohio gender discrimination lawyers with the Friedmann Firm have helped many clients file complaints and pursue lawsuits related to unequal and abusive treatment in the employment setting. Our experiences have provided us with the following insights, which we will gladly discuss in more detail with people who believe they are being discriminated against because of their gender. No-cost, confidential consultations can be scheduled by calling 614.610.9755 or filling out this online contact form.


What constitutes gender discrimination?


The law forbids discrimination based on gender when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, training, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. (See

Gender discrimination occurs when a person is discriminated against or harassed  because of their gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. This type of harassment may occur when a person is expected to act a certain way based on his or her gender. The law protects employees from being discriminated against if they are harassed for not acting stereotypically masculine or feminine.


The relevant gender discrimination laws mandate things like equal pay for equal work, equal promotional opportunities and benefits, and the opportunity to qualify for jobs regardless of gender.


Which federal laws protect people from gender discrimination?


A Columbus gender discrimination lawyer deals primarily with the following six federal statutes:


  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits all forms on unequal treatment based on physical sex and gender expression in hiring, pay, and conditions of employment.
  • Equal Pay Act, which amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to require the same wages or salaries for men and women who do essentially the same jobs for the same employer.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act, which mandates up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for dealing with a health problem being experienced by the employee or someone the employee provides care for.
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which makes it illegal for an employer to fire, reassign, or reduce hours for a woman who has become pregnant or just returned from giving birth without stating a defensible reason for doing so (e.g., a pregnant woman cannot legally work with certain chemicals).
  • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which makes it illegal for educational institutions and training programs to deny equal opportunities to male and female students and employees, and also offers protections to people who report sexual harassment or sexual assaults in educational or training settings.
  • S. Code Title 42, Chapter 21, which codifies the federal civil rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


Figuring out which provisions of which laws offer remedies for a person who has suffered gender discrimination is one of the main reasons to consult with an experienced civil rights attorney. A legal adviser and representative will also know how to collect, organize, and present all the evidence needed to support a gender discrimination claim and succeed with a lawsuit.


How can gender discrimination be proven under Title VII?


The largest body of gender discrimination case law involves employment discrimination claims brought under Title VII. Courts have developed a three-step process for deciding whether a person,was discriminated against because of his or her gender.


Step one requires the person making the allegation of gender discrimination to state a prima facie (“at first look”) case by showing four things:


  1. The person is a member of a group covered by Title VII.
  2. The person was qualified for the position.
  3. The person suffered an adverse employment action.
  4. The job or promotion went to a person who was not qualified or remained unassigned despite a need by the employer.


The case requirements may vary slightly depending on the jurisdiction where the case is filed, as well as whether the discrimination involves a failure to hire, or a termination. When the employee can establish the four elements of a prima facie case, the burden then shifts to the employer to prove that the termination, was for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason. Employers typically argue that the person alleging gender discrimination lacked proper qualifications, was unable to perform his or her job, or violated work rules or company policy.


The final step involves the employee and their Columbus gender discrimination lawyer presenting evidence that the employer’s stated reasons were pretext — unjustified explanations that were either made up, or given after the fact to cover up discriminatory intent. Evidence of pretext can come from statements made by managers and supervisors, records that show gender imbalances in hiring and promotions, emails, text messages, recordings, wage and salary differentials, and testimony from former or other employees. If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your gender, contact one of our attorneys today for a free consultation.