What to Do – Coworker Is Harassing You Because of Your Gender

You would think that now we are well into the twenty first century that any kind of discrimination at work because of one’s gender or gender identity just wouldn’t happen anymore. Unfortunately, it does. Sometimes it is open and obvious and at other times more discrete and disguised. Gender discrimination can prevent you reaching your full potential at work, mean you are passed over for promotion, are paid less or simply feel frustrated, annoyed or intimidated because of the insensitivity of the remarks or actions.

Whatever the discrimination you have experienced, whether it is by a co-worker, a supervisor or by your employer, it is probable that it is illegal under federal law. You have the right to sue the individual or employer who is illegally discriminating against you. You should contact an employment law attorney to discuss your grievances and find out what your legal options are.

What is Gender Discrimination?

Gender discrimination, also called sex discrimination, is defined by federal and state legislation as any kind of discrimination against a person because of their gender, gender orientation, or gender identity including transgender identity. The discrimination could take any of the following forms:

  • pay;
  • promotion;
  • hiring and firing;
  • layoffs;
  • access to training;
  • fringe benefits;
  • other terms and conditions of employment.


In addition to the types of discrimination listed above is any kind of physical or verbal harassment. This is not the same as occasional flirting, sexist remarks or sexual innuendo. Harassment is illegal if it is of an intensity or degree that causes the work environment to become hostile or uncomfortable or leads to the victim of the harassment being fired or demoted.

Harassment could take the form of unsolicited touching or other physical contact of a sexual nature, constant sexual innuendo or taunts, insults and threats. The harassment may also take place through electronic media such as emails and social media, or through physical written or printed messages and explicit drawings or graphic images.

How You Are Covered By the Law

Sex discrimination at work as defined above is covered by both federal law and by separate but similar laws in many, if not most, states.

The federal agency that oversees discrimination of any type is the U.S. Equal Employment

Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The federal legislation under Title VII covers all employees who work in a workplace of 15 or more employees. State discrimination legislation for workplaces of fewer than 15 employees may be covered by the state you live and work in. Talk to an attorney about your situation and legal options open to you if suffering discrimination at work. You will need proof that you have been discriminated or harassed as defined under legislation.

If there is sufficient proof that you have been the victim of illegal discrimination or harassment, then you may be able to sue the person or employer involved. Damages claimed could include back pay, restitution of a position or job, attorney’s fees, court costs, compensation for pain and suffering and punitive damages. The EEOC caps the amounts that can be claimed for the last two components of a claim at between $50,000 and $300,000 depending on the exact circumstances.

How an Attorney Can Help

An employment law attorney is the best person to see to discuss the level and kind of discrimination or harassment you are experiencing at work. The attorney will be able to assess your situation and advise you of your legal options. S/he may advise you to go and ahead and sue the individual or employer if your case is strong. The attorney will be able to help assess the evidence you have of discrimination and suggest ways of obtaining additional material that can assist with any legal action you take.

Useful evidence may include statements from co-workers who can testify to the sort of discrimination you have alleged as well as any physical evidence you can obtain or provide such as messages sent by email, comments made on social media, text messages, physical evidence such as drawings or written and printed text.

If you have experienced harassment of any type and what you feel you have been experiencing is ongoing, it may also be useful to record interactions with the help of a voice recorder and / or camera app.