The Dangers of Valuing Gender Norms
September/October 2012

As the societal climate continues to improve for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered individuals and other minorities, the legal protections for these groups are also evolving, particularly in the workplace. The impact of the changes in some laws and EEOC guidelines relating to sexual minorities is increasingly significant. Employers should be alert to these trends because they likely will need to do more than update existing EEO policies to list “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” among the protected categories.

Among the anticipated challenges will be mitigating gender normative discrimination such as preferring masculine men and feminine women in employment decisions. As the EEOC wrote in a recent decision, Title VII prohibits discrimination based on biological sex as well as “the cultural and social aspects associated with masculinity and femininity.” The problem is this is easy to do inadvertently. Unintentional or not, this kind of discrimination can lead to the same liability as outright sex-based discrimination. ...

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