Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity Discrimination

The topic of discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity has become a topic of ever-increasing importance in recent years. As more information is learned about human sexuality, public consciousness about sexual orientation has increased exponentially, and the law has been slowly adopting policies that add specific protections for such cases.

No longer is the world split into two simple categories of “straight” and “gay,” as there are a variety of levels in between these two cut-and-dry labels, including bisexuality, asexuality and individuals who identify as transgender (meaning they identify with a gender internally that does not align with their outward, physical appearance.)

Protections for employees have been ensured under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963, among other federal laws. These laws include protections against discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability and genetic information, as well as additional protections for “protected activities.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission holds that any discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is protected under the “sex” clause of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, meaning that discrimination based on either of these factors is a violation of federal law.

As such, no applicant or employee may be subject to negative actions (such as demotions, pay cuts or firings), harassment, denial of benefits or treated unfairly in regards to promotions or bonuses solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identification. This protection extends to anybody related to, intimately involved with or otherwise acquainted with someone of varying orientation or identification.

Harassment against people of varying sexual orientation and gender identification is strictly prohibited. Harassment is defined as any type of behavior or actions that result in a hostile work environment for an applicant or employee. For instance, if an employee is consistently called a homophobic slur by coworkers, or is given a homophobic nickname by a supervisor, this constitutes harassment, as the employee will likely feel as though they are in a negative work environment due to such behavior.

What if my employer doesn’t know about my orientation/identification?

If an employer is unaware, or claims to be unaware, of the sexual orientation of an employee who is claiming to be discriminated against or harassed, they could likely plead ignorance in any complaints or legal action brought against them. Thus, it is wise to disclose your sexual orientation or gender identification status to the human resources office at your place of employment, although you have no legal obligation to do so.

Can an employer discriminate against my orientation/identification on religious grounds?

Currently, it is illegal for any supervisor or employer to discriminate against an employee of any company that is bound by federal law to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identification, even if they cite religious reasons for doing so.

These protections do not apply, however, universally in every state, such as cases of employment in churches and private religious schools where they may be exempt from anti-discrimination laws.

When in doubt, work with an attorney

If you or anybody you love has been a victim of discrimination in the workplace because of your sexual orientation or gender identification, you likely have grounds for a formal complaint with your company or may seek further recourse through legal action.

This area of law is constantly and rapidly changing as more pressure mounts on local and state governments to advocate on behalf of their residents who identify as transgendered, and individuals who have felt oppressed and discriminated against because of this status.

At Altman & Altman LLP, we believe in the absolute fairness and protection of every individual under United States law. Discrimination in any case, because of any factor, is a serious problem that we will pursue aggressively and without pause until justice can be achieved. Our experience team of legal professionals has over 40 years of experience fighting for these values, and we will provide the same expertise and enthusiasm for your case.

We provide free consultation to go over the details of your case, and will assist in every aspect of your case from start to finish. Call us today at 617-492-3000 or toll-free at 800-481-6199. We are available 24/7.

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