Discrimination laws protecting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the United States are complicated. Although other classes, such as race, gender, and religion, receive protection under federal and state statutes and regulations, sexual orientation and gender identity remain largely unprotected.
Even though federal statutes do not explicitly protect against this type of discrimination, the law regarding sexual orientation and gender identity is constantly changing. When it comes to workplace discrimination and harassment, the LGBT community does have a growing level of protection.
For example, in July 2014, President Obama signed an executive order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation.
Ohio was even faster in this regard. Governor John Kasich signed Executive Order 2011-05KS in 2011, an anti-discrimination policy for state employees that included protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
What is LGBT discrimination and harassment?
LGBT discrimination is any discrimination based on sexual orientation, including homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, and gender identity. Essentially, if your employer treats you differently because you are a member of the LGBT community, you may be a victim of discrimination. Harassment is a type of discrimination involving unwelcome conduct. LGBT harassment is any harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Many courts view LGBT discrimination and sex discrimination as separate and distinct concepts. On the other hand, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has taken the position that LGBT discrimination is covered by federal laws barring sex discrimination. Whatever the rule, if you are the victim of sexual harassment at work, even if your harassers are members of the same sex, you may be entitled to relief. Your employer has a duty to provide you with a safe, harassment-free work environment. If you ask your employer to stop the harassment, but it does not stop, you may be entitled to compensation.
What types of workplace discrimination are common for the LGBT community?
Discrimination can be difficult to identify and even more difficult to prove. Common examples of workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity could include:
- Bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation
- Job or promotional denial based on sexual orientation or gender identity
- Job benefits denial based on sexual orientation or gender identity
- A noticeable difference in treatment compared to others
- Negative job performance review because of sexual orientation or gender identity rather than actual job performance
- Termination based on being sexual orientation or gender identity
What should you do if you have witnessed or experienced discrimination?
If you believe you or someone you know is the victim of workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, you may be able to file a claim for discrimination. You can file a discrimination claim with either the federal government via the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or with a State agency.
Once you have filed your claim, the agency will investigate the claim. If it agrees that there was discrimination that violated a federal or state statute or regulation, it may impose penalties against your employer.You may have the right to file a claim in court if you are not satisfied with the agency’s determination.
If you win your case, you might:
- Get your job back
- Get the promotion you deserved
- Recover compensation, such as back pay and benefits, front (future) pay, and compensatory damages (mental anguish, inconvenience, etc.).
Do you need to hire an attorney?
The short answer to this question is yes. Hiring an attorney can be essential to your discrimination or harassment case. Because both the federal and state laws concerning LGBT rights and discrimination are fairly new and constantly changing, it can be easy to make a mistake that could hurt your case.
Furthermore, there are multiple deadlines you must meet when filing a claim for discrimination or harassment. If you miss a deadline, you could lose your right to sue. Even if your employer blatantly discriminated against you based solely on the fact that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, if you miss a deadline, your employer could get away with no punishment whatsoever.
Because you can lose your right to sue if you miss your deadline, you should contact an employment attorney as soon as possible after an instance of harassment or discrimination.
Robert A. Klingler Co., L.P.A. Can Help You
The employment attorneys at Robert A. Klingler Co., L.P.A can help you fight back against intolerance in the workplace. Discrimination and harassment should not go unchecked simply because the laws surrounding these issues are new. Our attorneys are up-to-date on all the latest changes in employment law and will help you collect the evidence you need to prove your employer behaved illegally.
Contact us today at 513-665-9500 for more information on how we can help you.