One of the excuses used by many to ignore the problem of the wage gap between male and female workers was that the fields "preferred" by women simply paid less. If men chose to be doctors and women chose to be nurses, it was natural that men would be paid more. This was and is utter nonsense, of course. That viewpoint ignores the sexist double standards and barriers to entry that kept women out of these traditionally male occupations. It also obscures the simple reality that when men and women do the same work, in the same field, women still get paid less. New research is helping to accurately portray the ways in which women are discriminated against in employment.
In New Jersey, state and federal laws protect workers from sexual harassment. This is not a new development. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sex discrimination. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and has been prohibited for more than half a century. Unfortunately, 50 years does not seem to be long enough for many employers to get the message. Sexual harassment is still a leading cause of action pursued against employers all over the country.
There are many ways in which people of a certain ilk try to deny or defend the wage gap between men and women. Some claim there is no gap, ignoring substantial research that it is a real problem. Some claim it is a matter of personal decisions, as though women choose to earn less to do the same work as men. Another claim that has gained popularity is that the gap all but disappears if we ignore the very top levels, with the implication being that the problem will correct itself sometime in the future when more of these positions are filled by women. Ignoring the fact that there is no valid reason so few females occupy those positions now, this hides the fact that the wage gap is present from the earliest point in our careers. It may be smaller, but that small gap widens over time.
Three years ago, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that discrimination based on gender identity was sex discrimination. That ruling meant that transgender discrimination was included among the behaviors expressly forbidden by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. That ruling did not, however, tackle the question of whether anti-gay discrimination in the workplace should be considered sex discrimination. In a recent 3-2 vote, the EEOC has now made its position clear. If an employer discriminates against you based on your sexual orientation, that employer is violating the Civil Rights Act.
The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General maintains civil rights fact sheets designed to help employees and employers understand their rights and responsibilities. The fact sheet discussing sex discrimination under New Jersey law gives several examples of what is unlawful conduct. In the most general terms, it is illegal under New Jersey law to treat someone differently or unfairly based on gender in the areas of employment, housing, places of public accommodation, contracting and credit. You cannot refuse to hire someone, promote someone, provide equal pay or any other job benefit based on gender. This absolutely applies to both men and women, though few would argue that the two groups are equally likely to be penalized based on gender.