Sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace has been occurring for decades, affecting the careers and lives of LGBTQ employees in many ways. Even as society is changing and advancing its views on equality for all people, LGBTQ discrimination persists.
What Is Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace?
Sexual orientation in the workplace refers to an employee being treated differently because of their sexual orientation, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.
This “treatment” can include a wide variety of employer behaviors/actions, which can negatively affect the employee. An employee may also be discriminated against because of the sexual orientation of someone they are close to.
Additionally, sexual orientation discrimination may occur due to an employee perceived to be LGBTQ in the workplace, whether the employer’s perception is correct or not.
Is There a Difference Between Sexual Orientation Discrimination and Gender Identity Discrimination?
Sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace relates specifically to the person’s sexuality. Gender identity discrimination can include the same actions that an employer may take but would be performed specifically due to who the employee considers their innermost concept of self. This could be male, female, a combination of both or neither, and may or may not be the same as their assignment at birth.
Sexual Orientation and LGBTQ Discrimination in the Workplace
Employers who discriminate against LGBTQ employees may take a variety of actions. Similar to discriminating against someone due to their age, race, disability, sex, or religion, examples of sexual orientation and LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace can include:
- Demotions or Terminations
- Reduction of pay or scheduled hours
- Harassment, bullying, or abusive behavior
- Denial of benefits
- Adding new responsibilities not in the job description, such as heavy lifting
- Not hiring someone specifically due to their sexual orientation
- Being denied leave for the birth of a child or to care for a partner/spouse when you otherwise qualify for FMLA leave
What Federal Laws Protect Employees from Sexual Orientation Discrimination?
Discrimination cases are typically filed citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII includes protections against workplace discrimination due to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, and disability. This federal law does not specifically include sexual orientation. Even though multiple efforts have been taken over the last twenty years, legislation has not passed in Congress to protect LGBTQ employees against discrimination.
However, the federal protections that are in place for federal government workers that guard against sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace have been referenced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to extend to claims against employers in the private sector.
Even though sexual orientation or gender is not specifically included in the language of Title VII, the law has been interpreted to provide protection for members of the LGBTQ community against discrimination in the workplace.
How Do I File a Complaint of Sexual Orientation Discrimination?
A complaint of sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace would be filed with the EEOC, which can be completed online or in-person at a local EEOC office. You do not need to navigate this process alone or only with the assistance of an EEOC employee. An employment lawyer can gather the information needed, draft your charge and file it for you offering valuable advice at every step. You can also start the process on the telephone, but charges cannot be filed that way.
Before filing an EEOC claim of discrimination, it is important to have details of what occurred as well as any related documentation that would be helpful for your case. This documentation will vary depending on your situation. For example, if you were consistently being harassed or bullied with offensive emails, messages, pictures, or texts, these would be helpful to your case.
Regardless of the type of discrimination, details of dates, what occurred, and if there were any witnesses to what happened may all be useful to building a strong case. Even if you do not feel you have comprehensive documentation, you may have more than you think.
A discrimination attorney has the expertise to analyze the situation and the documentation. It is recommended to consult one to ensure the claim you file is as strong as possible. And you do not need to wait to seek this advice. Being well advised before filing your charge can prove to be invaluable.
Are There Statutes of Limitations to File a Sexual Orientation Discrimination Case?
Sexual orientation discrimination cases would follow the same statutes of limitations as other types of discrimination. They must follow EEOC guidelines. The typical filing deadline would be 180 days from the date the discrimination occurred, such as the date of termination if you were fired. This time period is extended to 300 days if a state or local agency enforces a state or local law that prohibits sexual orientation discrimination.
The Florida Civil Rights Act does not include sexual orientation in their language but may be interpreted in the same manner as Title VII, and there are multiple local laws across the state that provide protection, including coverage for employees residing in:
- Broward and Miami-Dade Counties
- City of Miami
- City of Tampa
- City of West Palm Beach, among others.
How Can a Discrimination Attorney Help My Case?
A discrimination attorney has expertise in employee rights and understands what it takes to build a strong case against employers. They understand the complexities of the law and how to approach complex cases, including those involving harassment and discrimination.
It is not uncommon for employers to try to bully, harass, or otherwise try to convince employees that they do not have a claim or should not pursue one. Your lawyer is with you every step of the way and works diligently and aggressively to obtain the best outcome possible in discrimination cases.
Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. works with employees across Florida to hold employers accountable for discriminatory actions, fighting hard for employee rights. If you believe you have a case of sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, we are here for you.
We have offices across the state in Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, and West Palm Beach.
Please Note: At the time this article was written, the information contained within it was current based on the prevailing law at the time. Laws and precedents are subject to change, so this information may not be up to date. Always speak with a law firm regarding any legal situation to get the most current information available.