Discrimination on the basis of gender is a widespread issue in American workplaces. And too often, employers focus on only one kind of harm that discrimination can cause to an organization: legal liability.

But every aspect of a firm’s effectiveness can be hurt by discrimination. And employees can suffer from devastating effects of gender discrimination long after they are subjected to it at work.Here are just a few of the harmful effects that workplace gender discrimination can cause.

Harmful Effects of Gender Discrimination at Work

1. Gender Discrimination Can Damage Mental Health

Research published by the National Institutes of Health shows that victims of gender discrimination experience lower rates of job satisfaction. Harassment also leads to increased rates of anxiety and depression. These effects are not limited to the direct victim of the harassment, but extend to other members of the organization. This means that the morale, focus and energy of a whole team could be sapped by the presence of gender discrimination.

2. Gender Harassment Can Cause Workplace Stress

The effects of unfair treatment in the workplace aren’t limited to psychological harm. Sexual harassment also increases stress levels and may lead to greater rates of physical illness. Likewise, gender discrimination can lead to higher rates of tardiness and absenteeism due to health problems that arise from workplace stress. If employees don’t want to be at work, they may avoid it, which costs productivity. What’s more, these illnesses can increase healthcare claims, which may lead to increased insurance costs for the employer.

3. Gender Discrimination Comes at a Cost to Employers

Federal and California state laws impose serious legal penalties on employers who discriminate against employees due to gender. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act both forbid any employment discrimination on the basis of sex or gender. Section 703 of Title VII defines unlawful employment practices to include failure to hire an applicant or discriminating against them with respect to compensation or other terms of employment because of their sex. Non-economic damages and compensation for lost pay could be in the millions.

4. Gender Discrimination Can Increase Job Turnover

Given the impact on employee health and happiness, and the possibility of decreased career opportunities, it’s hardly surprising that gender discrimination often leads to increased employee turnover. The higher an employee’s job satisfaction, the less likely he or she is to look for work elsewhere. Because of the need for retraining, loss of organizational memory, and recruitment, employee turnover can also be quite expensive. In fact, it may be the biggest cost to U.S. companies when related to sexual harassment.

5. Gender Discrimination Promotes Inefficient Hiring and Promotion Practices

Another harmful effect to sex and gender discrimination is the inefficient selection of qualified employees. If the gender of an employee is used as a basis for his or her hiring or promotion, rather than skills and experience, then an employer may fail to choose the right person for the job. Additionally, if employees lose their jobs because of their gender, it can lead to higher turnover costs. If these problems are systematic, the costs could be extraordinary.

A useful example of high turnover costs to consider is the U.S. military’s infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Because this policy led to the firing of LGBT troops, it created huge costs during its long life. According to the Center for American Progress, the cost of firing and retraining openly gay and lesbian troops under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was over $363 million over ten years. 800 of those personnel were deemed to have “mission-critical” skills, so it stands to reason that the military’s effectiveness as a whole also suffered from the policy.

6. Gender Discrimination Can Give Employers a Bad Rap

The impacts of sexual harassment and gender discrimination don’t stop at the lobby doors. As CNN reported in Wal-Mart’s landmark discrimination case, public allegations of discrimination can hurt a company’s brand image and even its stock price. Also, it may become harder to recruit in-demand workers, as the company develops an image as a hostile work environment. This means more recruitment costs and a less effective workforce, which hurts both employees and employers alike.

Sex and Gender Discrimination: Additional Resources

  • Comparing the California Fair Pay Act and the Equal Pay Act
  • Examples of Gender Discrimination in California
  • Sexual Harassment Cases in California: Real-Life Examples
  • The California Fair Employment and Housing Act
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The impact of sexual harassment on job satisfaction, turnover intentions, and absenteeism: findings from Pakistan compared to the United States

No one should have to suffer in a hostile working environment that promotes gender discrimination or sexual harassment. If you feel your employer is violating state or federal gender discrimination laws, contact the California employment attorneys at Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation today.