If you encounter sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, you may have a legal claim against your employer. Sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace can occur in subtle and overt forms and can occur if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or straight. Discrimination is any adverse action you experience at your job because of your real or perceived sexual orientation. Examples include:
- being passed over for a promotion or other opportunities because of your sexual orientation;
- receiving unfavorable evaluations because of your sexual orientation;
- being denied benefits because of your sexual orientation;
- being harassed, called names, or disciplined because of your sexual orientation; and
- receiving unwanted sexual advances or contact because of your sexual orientation.
Sexual orientation discrimination also includes unfavorable treatment you experience based on your association with people of a certain sexual orientation. If you are experiencing any of the mistreatment described above, or any other unfair treatment based on your sexual orientation, a Boston employment law attorney can help you protect your rights.
Many companies have policies that prohibit unfavorable treatment as a result of sexual orientation. One of the first steps, if you are being harassed, is to see if your company has such a policy. Step two is to report the treatment to your manager or Human Resources Department. Keep records (such as emails, texts voice mails, etc.) of any interaction you believe was discriminatory. If you don’t have any written records, keep a log of all the interactions you believe are discriminatory. Note the date and time of the interaction, and write down the names of others who might have witnessed it. This information can prove invaluable if you decide to file a lawsuit.
Although federal law may provide some protection, laws in this area are a bit foggy. The United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges recently held that same sex couples have the right to marry and receive all of the benefits of marriage. Outside of marriage, though, federal law currently does not provide explicit protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation the way it does for discrimination based on age, sex, religion, race, natural origin and disability. That being said, Title IX, a federal law which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace, may also apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation. Complaints under Title IX may be enforced by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Notably, if you work for the federal government, you should also be protected from sexual orientation (and gender identity) discrimination by an Executive Order that President Obama amended in 2014. The law in this area is changing frequently, so it is best to consult a MA employment law attorney about the protections federal laws may provide.
Even though federal law does not specifically prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, more than 20 states do, including Massachusetts. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin have similar laws. If you work in Massachusetts, you may be able to sue your employer in state court for violating anti-discrimination laws. Doing so may result in compensation for harm you suffered. Continue reading