History of Gender Discrimination Protection Law in the US


Where to even begin with the topic of gender discrimination and work? There’s no arguing that the history of females making money is rich in examples of unfair business practices, unsafe working conditions, limited opportunities for career development, and of course, unequal pay. Last week, to kick off Women’s History Week, we defined what gender discrimination is and the protections employers should implement to thwart it.

In the weeks to come we’ll be having discussion on equal pay and harassment. But before we launch into how employers should protect women at their worksites, we thought a brief overview of how protection laws have developed in the country would be enlightening.


How current laws came to be


  1. 1872: Equal Pay Legislation. You read that right, 1872. This legislation was passed in congress and it sought pay protections for female workers in the federal government. Now whether the law was actually abided by is very much in debate, but it’s the first real move in the country to acknowledge the contributions of the working woman.
  2. Equal Pay Act of 1963. Nearly a century later, and after many failed attempts to pass nationwide wage protections, we see this Act extend equal pay to workers outside the federal government. This law seeks to establish equal pay for equal work (the same skills and responsibilities).
  3. Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically Title VII. Major legislation following the Equal Pay Law of 1963 that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.
  4. Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. An amendment to Title VII of the CRA of 1964, it extends protections against sex discrimination to pregnant workers.
  5. Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Unfortunately gender discrimination protection laws didn’t advance much following 1978, until 2009 when President Obama signed this amendment as his first bill in office. It extends the window of time an employee has to file a complaint/lawsuit arguing an unequal pay violation.


As we seek to support employee protection laws, we feel it’s important to know from where they came. A little history can go a long way in understanding the why of the things we do, and even in how to change current regulations for the better. If you’re looking to ensure the progress of an equal and fair workplace, Eos HR is that team. We make sure small business employers have the resources they need to lead a productive and safe workplace. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more.