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Women and the Workplace

Sexual Harassment and Employment

Sexual harassment affected women in different ways, depending on their race and place of employment.  However, sexual harassment largely impacted Women of Color as a whole.  Studies revealed that women who held clerical jobs reported more incidents of sexual harassment. Coincidentally, more Women of Color worked as clerks or secretaries.  The struggle against sexual harassment sought to not only end inappropriate interactions in the workplace, but increase women’s wages.


Across the United States and its territories, women began organizing in protest of sexist treatment. Women in Puerto Rico met together to discuss and take action against sexual harassment, marital rape, and sex discrimination.  Their organization paved the way for more feminist discourse.  For example, feminist research in Puerto Rico started studying the ways that “machismo” and US colonialist attitudes contributed to sexism.  In 1988, a bill known as Law 17, that eradicated sexual harassment in the workplace.

Equal Pay For Equal Work

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Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race, religion, and national origin. Representative Martha Griffiths promoted the inclusion in Title VII with the category of “sex,” which helped pass the act. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was then established to investigate discrimination complaints. Within the commission’s first five years, it received 50,000 sex discrimination complaints.


Full-time women workers earned on the average only 60% of what men earned and routinely were paid lower salaries than men. They were denied opportunities to advance, as employers assumed they would soon become pregnant and quit their jobs.

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In March, 1969, NOW attorney Sylvia Roberts argued the first sex discrimination case under Title VII. Roberts argued in the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that it was sex discrimination for Lorena Weeks, a secretary, to be restricted from higher-paying employment as a “switchman” because of a 30-pound lifting limit. Weeks entered the courtroom with her typewriter, which she was regularly required to lift and move—it weighed more than 30 pounds.


The court later ruled in Weeks v. Southern Bell that the weight limitation rule for women violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

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