In light of the recent news concerning California’s Prop 8, it seems prudent to bring attention to issues related to workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. This includes being treated differently or harassed because of your real or perceived sexual orientation — whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or heterosexual. While Federal laws tend to have little recourse, the matter is quite different with many State laws. Almost half the states and the District of Columbia have laws that currently prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in both public and private jobs.
If no law prohibits sexual orientation discrimination where you work, there may still be hope. Depending on the exact nature of the discrimination, you may be able to sue your employer or your coworkers under several general legal theories, including:
- intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress
- invasion of privacy
- interference with an employment contract, and
- wrongful termination.
The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy studied a number of surveys to determine the extent to which gay and transgender workers experience discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Some examples include:
- 15% to 43 % of gay and transgender workers have experienced some form of discrimination on the job.
- 8% to 17 % of gay and transgender workers report being passed over for a job or fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- 10% to 28 % received a negative performance evaluation or were passed over for a promotion because they were gay or transgender.
- 7% to 41 % of gay and transgender workers were verbally or physically abused or had their workplace vandalized.
And this may be the tip of the proverbial iceberg: in states where the laws are weak or non-existent, the numbers are surely higher, and there is some evidence the situations described above are seriously under-reported. The Cartwright Law Firm handles employment discrimination in all it’s manifestations. We believe it is important that you understand your rights, and also understand what you can do when faced with discrimination on the job. While the fight for equality in marriage continues, the fight to battle discrimination is and looks to be ongoing, as well.