Gender discrimination in the workplace is prohibited by state and federal law. Our Minnesota employment law attorneys can review your case, protect your rights, and help you combat discrimination based on sex or gender.

Despite social progress and awareness around gender equality in the workplace, discrimination is still a problem in Minnesota and nationwide. It is unlawful for an employer to treat employees differently or discriminate against them on the basis of sex or gender. Federal and state laws prohibit employment discrimination based on sex including treating male or female employees differently with respect to hiring, firing, tenure, promotion, pay, benefits, terms, conditions, facilities, privileges of employment and job classification.

What is sex or gender discrimination?

There are many forms of gender discrimination, primarily concerning whether or not you have been treated differently than other employees because of your gender. It could occur at any phase of employment from hiring, through the duration of your employment, to termination. Here are some concrete examples of gender discrimination:

  • Disparate treatment: An employer creates a workplace environment that treats one sex differently than the other in the terms or conditions of employment, including work hours, pay, or duties.
  • Disparate impact: An employer’s policies or practices have an adverse or negative impact on one sex versus the other. For example, an employer starts requiring all potential hires to take a strength test used to evaluate each person’s ability to complete tasks like or related to the job. The test is more difficult than the actual job and after instituting the test, the number of women hired for the job decreases significantly. This policy, although neutral on its face (i.e. it did not mention women), would violate Title VII as having a disparate or negative impact on women.
  • Unequal pay: An employer pays one sex less than the other for the same or substantively similar work.
  • Sexual Harassment: An employer subjects the employee to unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexually motivate physical contact or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature. See more on Sexual Harassment.
  • Pregnancy Discrimination: An employer treats woman unfavorably because of her pregnancy, childbirth or medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. You may also suffer pregnancy discrimination if you have been treated differently after announcing your pregnancy or in your return from maternity leave. See more on Pregnancy Discrimination.
  • Caregiver Discrimination: An employer treats employee unfavorably because of family responsibilities. See more on Caregiver Discrimination.

What is the difference between sex and gender discrimination?

Generally, “sex” discrimination refers to the more obvious form of differential treatment of employees based on their biological identity as male or female. Discrimination however is often more subtle and can include differential treatment based on the social characteristics of maleness or femaleness. Employers are also prohibited from discriminating against employees based on stereotypes of one’s gender.

Is sexual harassment gender discrimination?

Workers who are treated differently or targeted because of their gender are victims of illegal gender discrimination. Sexual harassment is also a form of sex discrimination and could include unwanted or lewd comments, verbal or written suggestions or come-ons, touching or grabbing, or propositions. There are many forms of sexual harassment in the workplace and if you feel you have been a victim, our attorneys can help.

Minnesota Gender Pay Disparity

A common way that gender discrimination continues to occur in our society is the difference between what men and women are paid for the same work. The disparity in pay between women and men still exists and it is significant. Even with federal and state equal pay laws that have been in effect for decades, surveys show the pay disparity between full-time working women and men in Minnesota to be as much as $10,000.00 a year.


The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is the federal law that prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women. 29 U.S. C. 206 (d). The Act has been amended several times, most recently in 2009. In 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law. This law was created to reverse the result of the United States Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007). This decision severely limited the time in which an employee could bring a claim for pay discrimination.

The court ruled the claim had to be brought within 180 days of the decision setting a discriminatory pay rate or wage. Practically speaking, this would be nearly impossible. It requires the employee to know of the pay disparity and report it immediately. The Ledbetter Act essentially put back in place the time limit many courts had applied prior the Supreme Court’s ruling: a claim starts to run from the date of any paycheck that contains an amount based on a discriminatory pay rate or wage.


Minnesota requires employers provide equal pay for equal work. Specifically, Minnesota Statute § 181.67 prohibits discrimination in wages paid to employees based on sex. This means an employer cannot discriminate in the wages it pays to male or female employees:

“No employer shall discriminate between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees at a rate less than the rate the employer pays to employees of the opposite sex for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions. . .” Minn. Stat. § 181.67 subd. 1.

What is gender discrimination retaliation?

Importantly, an employer is prohibited from retaliating against an employee who has reported or refused to engage in any form of gender discrimination, whether the report concerns unfair or differential treatment, sexual harassment, unequal pay or other forms of sex or gender-based discrimination. The protection extends to any person who has filed a charge or complaint, testified, assisted or participated in any investigation, proceeding or hearing. Retaliation also includes any form of intimidation or harassment.

How do I file a gender discrimination claim?

If you believe that you are a victim of unlawful gender discrimination related to unfair wages, disparate treatment, pregnancy or caretaking responsibilities, or sexual harassment, remember that you do have rights and may be entitled to significant compensation.


The employment lawyers at Wanta Thome PLC have represented hundreds of employees who have experienced sex and gender discrimination, sexual harassment, equal pay discrimination, pregnancy discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. If you feel have experienced any form of gender discrimination, we want to hear from you. Contact us for a free initial consultation.


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