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Was I The Victim Of LGBT Discrimination In The Workplace?

It can be stressful and emotionally taxing when an employee has to go to work and does not know whether their sexual orientation will negatively influence their ability to successfully complete their work or simply get through the day. LGBT discrimination is particularly egregious because it can easily create a horrific work environment for its victims. 

An employee who feels they have no choice but to hide their sexual orientation and who suffers daily harassment because they are afraid of retaliation or termination will simply not perform at his or her best.

If you were the victim of sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace you may be entitled to damages for:

Is LGBT Discrimination Against The Law In California?

According to California law —  and specifically the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) — discrimination in the workplace that is based on an employee’s sexual orientation is unlawful. In short, it is against the law for any employer to discriminate against any employee simply because of his or her sexual orientation. This includes heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality.

FEHA extends protections to prohibit discrimination that is based on an employee’s gender related appearance, gender expression, or gender related behavior. These protections apply whether or not an individual’s behavior is outside the mainstream or is associated with an individual’s assigned sex at birth.

Examples Of LGBT Discrimination

Instances of sexual orientation discrimination can start off in a seemingly innocent fashion. Let’s consider an example. Say that an employer asks an employee about his or her relationship status, which is a delicate question to ask in the first place. 

When the employer learns that the employee is married or is involved with a same sex partner, the employer then makes a comment about same sex marriage that is meant to be “humorous”, but which is actually offensive to the employee. Such jokes and comments can be hurtful, and they can certainly prove an employer is biased against people of a certain sexual orientation.

Another example is when an employer uses an employee’s sexual orientation as a way of teasing or alienating them. Regardless of an employee’s qualifications and experience, an employer may choose to use a person’s sexual orientation in order to cast a doubt about their capacity to do their job, which is unlawful.

Discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation may be expressed under a “playful” or “humorous” tone, but it can have a negative impact on an employee’s ability to perform his or her job related tasks, as well as making an employee feel unsafe while in the workplace.

Was I Discriminated Against Because Of My Sexual Orientation?

Even so, there signs that an employer is discriminating against an employee because of his or her sexual orientation, such as:

  1. Making comments or jokes about an employee’s sexual orientation.
  2. Allowing or participating in a hostile work environment against gay employees.
  3. Making jokes about an employee’s private sex life.
  4. Limiting advancement opportunities for employees who are gay or who are perceived as gay.
  5. Distributing offensive memes or videos.
  6. Forcing gay employees to work on different job tasks than everyone else.
  7. Forcing gay employees to quit.
  8. Allowing sexual harassment.
  9. Firing employees who change their gender identity or intend to do so.
  10. When managers do not take discrimination claims seriously.

As mentioned, discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation may be expressed under a “playful” or “humorous” tone, but it can have a negative impact on an employee’s ability to perform his or her job related tasks, as well as making an employee feel unsafe while in the workplace.

How Do I Deal with LGBT Discrimination?

You should document your case and be as diligent as possible. Gather as much evidence as you can, such as documents, emails, text messages, or voicemails which show that you were discriminated against because of your sexual orientation. 

Blatant examples of LGBT discrimination — such as explicit emails or text messages — will not always be available. However, you can still prove sexual orientation discrimination if you can demonstrate a pattern of behavior that, when considered as a whole, is shown to adversely affect the terms or privileges of an employee.

In general, there is a process that must be followed when dealing with sexual orientation discrimination. Speaking with your employer is the first step. If speaking to your employer doesn’t resolve the issue, your next step is to file a charge with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. 

Once the administrative agency has completed its investigation, you will typically receive a right to sue letter. At this point, you are free to pursue a legal claim in court. If you have not retained the services of an experienced sexual orientation discrimination attorney, now is the time to do so.

Proving LGBT Discrimination

In order for an employee to bring a sexual orientation discrimination claim in California, he or she must prove that:

Adverse employment actions can include definitive actions, such as termination or demotion. But even adverse employment actions that indicate a pattern of behaviors that, when considered as a whole, are shown to adversely affect the terms or privileges of an employee can be considered as adverse employment actions.

These are actions that will impair an otherwise reasonable employee’s job performance or opportunities for advancement in their chosen career path. However, actions that do little more than upset an employee will not count as instances of adverse employment action. 

An example of a definitive action would be an employer who discovers an employee is gay and immediately fires him or her. However, as mentioned, such actions do not need to reach this level. 

And finally, a substantial motivating reason is the real reason that an applicable adverse employment action was taken in the first place. This could be discriminatory in nature, but not necessarily.

Can I Be Fired For Reporting Sexual Orientation Discrimination?

Employees in the state of California cannot be retaliated against for reporting sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace. This is considered wrongful termination, which is a violation of FEHA rules and an employee may be entitled to file a lawsuit for wrongful termination. 

FEHA offers protections for any employees who were retaliated against for:

  • Filing a sexual orientation discrimination claim.
  • Reporting sexual orientation discrimination or harassment.
  • Taking steps to oppose harassment in the workplace.
  • Aiding with sexual orientation discrimination investigations.

West Coast Employment Lawyers Is Here to Help

The best course of action is to secure legal advice immediately upon determining that unfair treatment has or is occurring at your workplace. The skilled LGBT discrimination lawyers at West Coast Employment Lawyers will do everything possible to construct effective arguments to win your case.

Our attorneys are committed to helping victims of sexual orientation discrimination receive full vindication, fair compensation, and the peace of mind they deserve.

If you or a loved one has been wrongfully discriminated against or terminated at work due to their sexual orientation, immediately contact West Coast Employment Lawyers for a free, no-obligation consultation with a sexual orientation discrimination lawyer at our firm. You can reach our legal team 24/7 by calling 213-927-3700 or emailing [email protected].


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