Four Types of Sex Discrimination

Four Types of Sex Discrimination

The 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawed sex discrimination in employment. That includes discrimination during the hiring process. Yet over 50 years later, sex discrimination, in various forms, is still fairly common in Illinois. 

Congress did not just forbid sex discrimination. It also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce the CRA. This small agency only sporadically enforces the Civil Rights Act.

So, as in many other areas, Chicago employment discrimination lawyers must enforce individual rights. These victims might be entitled to substantial compensation. The amount of compensation largely depends on the type of discrimination, as well as the employer’s reaction.

Disparate Treatment

In the minds of many, disparate treatment discrimination is the only type of actionable sex discrimination in Illinois. 

Some employers blatantly pay men more than women or otherwise treat men differently from women. Such disparate treatment cases are very difficult for employers to defend in court. They must provide a plausible, neutral reason for the discriminatory policy.

The EEOC usually accepts disparate treatment cases, but only if the discrimination affected a large number of people. Unless the agency could obtain headline-grabbing damages, the agency probably will not be interested. 

Disparate Impact

These cases involve indirect discrimination. Often, the discrimination is unintentional as well. For example, a boss might decide to change the day shift from 7-3 to 9-5. That change could make it impossible for parents with small children to pick up their kids from school or daycare.

Private attorneys typically handle a lot of disparate impact claims. These cases are easier to defend because it is easier to provide a discriminatory-neutral reason for the policy. Additionally, many Cook County jurors do not award high damages in these cases because there was no malice.


The EEOC usually handles more retaliation cases than any other type of discrimination claim. Even though retaliation is a subset of sex discrimination, discrimination is not an element of these cases. Instead, victims must only show a close temporal relationship between a protected activity and employer retaliation. In this context, protected activities include:

  • Speaking out against sex discrimination,
  • Serving as a witness in an internal investigation or a court case,
  • Encouraging other people to come forward or
  • Filing a complaint.

Examples of retaliation include sidelining, loss of opportunity, and termination. 


Everyone has the right to a harassment-free workplace. That includes both a hostile environment and quid pro quo harassment.

Hostile environment claims are by far the most common sexual discrimination harassment claims. Examples include offensive computer wallpaper, disparaging comments from coworkers, and disparate impact policies. Not all such events constitute a hostile environment. If the harassment is so bad that people must avoid certain areas or they are unable to do their jobs, the environment is probably a hostile one.

Connect with a Dedicated Lawyer

Sexual discrimination comes in many forms. For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago employment discrimination attorney, contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline.