In 1964 the United States’ Congress was contentiously debating the merits of the pending civil rights’ bill, and some congressmen were looking for ways to defeat the bill. Some of these men thought that if they added “sex” to the list of protected categories, that this would surely lead to the bill’s defeat. However, these congressmen underestimated the shear political muscle and will of fellow Texan, and President, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and as a result the Civil Rights Act was signed into law in 1965, (with the additional language protecting women against discrimination). A few years later the United States passed a law protecting women from being discriminated against for becoming pregnant, and thereafter Texas adopted a statute providing protections against gender and pregnancy discrimination. In addition to these anti-discrimination laws, in 1977 the United States passed the Equal Pay Act, which guarantees that women have the right to be paid the same as a man, if they are doing the same work.
Despite these laws the United States’ workforce is still extremely segregated by gender, and the overall pay disparity between women and men remains significant. This segregation and pay disparity is sometimes warranted based on necessary qualifications, and the undesirability of some jobs to the majority of women. But many woman are extremely qualified for, and desiring of, certain positions dominated by males, yet employers refuse to consider them for positions. Worse yet, some employers hire women but do not promote them because of biases, mistaken perceptions, or failure to be a part of the “good ol-boy network.” These employers are now dragged into the twenty-first century kicking and screaming.
As mentioned above, the discrimination laws prevent gender discrimination, as well as discrimination based on pregnancy. An employer cannot terminate or refuse to hire/promote a female employee merely because she becomes pregnant. An employer must also accommodate a pregnant woman the same way the employer accommodates other employees that have medical conditions. Likewise, all employers must comply with the Family & Medical Leave Act, if applicable. Failure to accommodate, or different treatment such as failure to hire, promote, different compensation, or a termination, can be the basis of a viable gender discrimination action.