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Taking a Stand Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Barrett & Farahany, an experienced sexual orientation discrimination law firm in Atlanta, believes that in the workplace, you should be judged by your merits and your dedication, not by your home life.

Although the world has become more accepting of same-sex relationships, something as simple as placing a photo of you and your partner on your desk can spark discrimination in the workplace – and surprisingly, you might not be as protected against others’ prejudices as you might think.

While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers against discrimination in regards to gender, religion and disability, it does not include sexual orientation. In fact, other than a provision of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, which covers federal government employees, there is no federal law on the books making orientation discrimination in the workplace illegal. In fact, studies show up to 43 percent of gay and transgender workers have been the victims of workplace discrimination, and unfortunately for many, there is little recourse.  There is, however, recourse for gender stereotyping, which often occurs in sexual orientation discrimination.

Thankfully, the tide is shifting. Currently more than 20 states, the District of Columbia, and hundreds of county and city municipalities have laws prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination – and the number continues to grow. In addition, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (EDNA) bill to make sexual orientation discrimination illegal is gaining momentum, though it has yet to become law.

If you live in a state or county with a sexual orientation discrimination law on the books and feel you have been discriminated against in any of the following ways, you may have a case in your favor:

  • Disparaging treatment – If you are not hired, not promoted or fired because of your sexual orientation – whether you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or straight – or if you are treated negatively by supervisors or management, it could be an issue of discrimination.
  • Harassment – Harassment may include comments about your mannerisms, jokes, threats, or any other act  that creates a hostile work environment. While many workers have experienced harassment at work in regards to their sexual orientation, 90 percent of transgender employees admit they have been harassed.
  • Benefits discrimination – In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, thereby protecting the states’ rights to define marriage. If your company provides benefits to married couples in a state that recognizes gay marriage, you are to receive the same benefits as your heterosexual coworkers.

If you feel you have been discriminated against or harassed in the workplace because of your sexual orientation, it is important to consult with an attorney like Barrett & Farahany to determine what laws may offer legal protection in your state. Even if there is no law affecting your employment, you may be able to encourage your employer to cease discriminatory activities and educate others to improve your employment situation.