6 Workplace Rights Every Woman Must Know About
Women’s labour force participation in the United States has increased over the last few decades. In 1950, only 33.9% of women aged 16+ years worked outside their homes. In 2013, 57.2% of women in the same age group were working outside their homes according to a report published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Women have no doubt made great strides in the US workforce, but inequality, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment persist in the workplace.
Often, women workers in the United States are unaware of their rights. A woman can help herself or someone else who has been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace only if she is aware of such rights. Here in this post, we will discuss the top six workplace rights every woman must know about:
Gender-Based Discrimination in the Workplace is Illegal
The Civil Rights Act recognizes each person as being equal. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers in the United States from discriminating against workers based on sex, religion, national origin, race, and colour. This act also makes it illegal to create a hostile work environment based on gender and sexual harassment for female workers.
Before the enactment of the historic Civil Rights Act, it was perfectly legal for an employer to refuse to hire women workers or post job descriptions in newspapers that said ‘women need not apply.’
The Civil Rights Act is generally applicable to employers with more than 15 employees, including federal, state, and local government departments.
Women Have the Right to Equal Pay
It is the constitutional right of female workers in the United States to get the same salary and incentives that male workers get for doing the same job.
The gender gap in pay still exists in the United States, but the Equal Pay Act of 1963 does help in empowering working women. According to the Census Bureau, full-time female workers in the United States who worked all through the year were earning 80% of what their male counterparts did in the year 2017. Back in the year 1980, women were earning only 36 cents for each dollar men earned.
Female workers can now file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) against their employers for unequal pay based on gender. They can also go to the court directly. In the event of wrongful termination in retaliation to such complaints, female workers can sue their employers.
In 2018, women workers at Nike – a sports apparel company – filed a class-action lawsuit at a federal court. The women claimed the company violated the Equal Pay Act by indulging in systematic gender pay discrimination.
Women workers can also file a claim against unequal pay under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act discussed above. However, it’s relatively difficult to win an unequal pay claim through this route.
Women Have the Right to Fair Labor Practices in the Workplace
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 was passed to improve the working conditions of workers near the end of the Great Depression. This act regulates minimum wage, a maximum number of work hours in a week, and overtime pay.
The FLSA also made it illegal for employers to hire children under the age of 14, with some exceptions for family businesses and others who were into agriculture.
Over the decades, the act has been amended several times. From a 44-hour workweek, the act now mandates a 40-hour workweek. The minimum wage has increased from 24-cent to $7.25.
Although the FLSA was not specifically targeted at women, the act has helped countless women earn the right wage.
According to a report published by the Pew Research Center that analyzed the data made available by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the minimum wage affects female workers more than it does male workers.
Among all workers in the United States who earn the federal minimum wage (or less), 62% are women.
Discrimination against Pregnant Women Workers is Illegal
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits employers from discriminating against pregnant women in the workplace.
Although Title VII prohibited gender-based discrimination, the US Supreme Court in the year 1974 ruled in favour of insurance companies in two separate cases; the insurers were excluding pregnant women from coverage, and the Supreme Court ruled that this practice did not violate the Title VII. The Supreme Court essentially implied that pregnancy discrimination is not the same as sex discrimination.
Four years later, Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, making discrimination based on pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions illegal.
Before this act was enacted, many employers laid off pregnant women workers to save on associated healthcare costs. Employers in the United States can no longer discriminate against pregnant women during recruitment or continued employment.
Women Workers Have the Right to Take Time off Work
Women workers in the United States have the right to take time off work to take care of an infant or for medical reasons. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, protects the rights of families and applies to employers who have at least 50 workers. Before the year 1993, employers could give a woman’s job to somebody else if she needed to take time off work to care for a newborn or adopted child.
The act makes it a legal requirement for employers to offer 12 weeks of medical leave (unpaid) to workers (men or women) suffering from severe medical conditions. Mothers and fathers can also avail of 12 weeks of unpaid leave to take care of (or bond with) a child (newborn or adopted).
Women Workers Have the Right to Get Time and a Private Space in the Workplace to Express Breast Milk to a Nursing Baby
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also referred to as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare makes it a legal requirement for employers to give female workers reasonable break time and private, intrusion-free space in the workplace to express breast milk to their children (aged up to 1 year). The Affordable Care Act only covers women who are non-exempt under the FLSA.
Disclaimer: This is not legal information. No attorney-client privileges are substantiated from this article.
Author Bio: Frank Feldman is PR/Media Manager at Stephen Danz & Associates, one of the largest law firms committed solely to representing employees in their disputes with employers in California.