It’s no secret that men and women aren’t treated equally in the workplace. Thanks to government regulation, the situation has somewhat improved in the last few decades, but women still face unfair discrimination at work. Such discrimination is illegal and it’s your responsibility as an employer to foster an environment that renounces sex discrimination.
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) specifically defines the forms of sex discrimination that are illegal in the workplace, and you can find that information here. The CFR also provides a brief outline of some best practices to avoid sex discrimination. Here, we’ll breakdown these best practices into 7 actionable steps to keep sex discrimination out of the workplace.
1. Avoiding the use of gender-specific job titles such as “foreman” or “lineman” where gender-neutral alternatives are available.
Using gender-specific job titles can wrongly impose gender identification on an employee or make an employee feel like they don’t belong in their field of work. Great examples of replacing gender-specific job titles with gender-neutral alternatives include using “firefighter” instead of “fireman,” or “postal worker” instead of “mailman.”
2. Designating single-user restrooms, changing rooms, showers, or similar single-user facilities as sex-neutral.
This one is pretty straightforward. Using sex-neutral, single-user restrooms is the easiest way to make sure there is a restroom that everyone can feel safe in. It eliminates the possibility that an employee feels unsure about which restroom or changing room to use.
3. Providing, as a part of their broader accommodations policies, light duty, modified job duties or assignments, or other reasonable accommodations to employees who are unable to perform some of their job duties because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
Pregnancy can create obvious challenges at work for women experiencing physical limitations or medical complications related to being pregnant, especially for those who work in physically demanding job groups. Accommodations for pregnant women are actually required by law under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and can include anything from alternative assignments, to additional breaks or unpaid leave.
4. Providing appropriate time off and flexible workplace policies for men and women.
There are plenty of reasons that both men and women may require time off during pregnancy or the pregnancy of a partner. Prenatal medical appointments, morning sickness, medical complications that require hospital visits, childbirth itself, and spending the necessary time bonding with newborn children are all great examples of this. It’s your job as an employer to appropriately accommodate this.
5. Encouraging men and women equally to engage in caregiving-related activities.
6. Fostering a climate in which women are not assumed to be more likely to provide family care than men.
Numbers 5 and 6 are very closely related and can be best understood when examined together. Promoting the idea that men and women should be equally responsible for family life and caregiving is one of the most challenging aspects of gender identity today. As an employer, it is in your best interest to encourage this kind of equality in your work environment. With men taking on more family responsibility, the burden on women to do so is reduced and will allow for a faster and more balanced return to work following pregnancy.
7. Fostering an environment in which all employees feel safe, welcome, and treated fairly, by developing and implementing procedures to ensure that employees are not harassed because of sex.
The CFR’s Sex Discrimination Guidelines provide constructive examples of how to foster this kind of safe and harassment-free environment. The first step is to communicate that harassment will not be tolerated. Second, provide anti-harassment training to all personnel. Third, Establish and implement procedures for handling and resolving complaints about harassment and intimidation based on sex.
For more detailed information, check out the Code of Federal Regulations’ Sex Discrimination Guidelines.