Los Angeles LGBTQ Discrimination Lawyer
Take a moment to imagine you’re in a workplace where you can’t be your true self. You might be thinking, “In this day and age? Surely not.” Unfortunately, for many members of the LGBTQ community, this isn’t a mere thought experiment—it’s reality. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. The battle against LGBTQ discrimination has seen significant strides, both legally and socially.
To fully grasp the depth of the issue, let’s examine real-world examples. Consider Genero, a man who comes out as gay in the office and is passed over for promotion despite his excellent performance, because his boss thinks individuals that identify as gay should not be given equal opportunity. Or Travis, a transgender man who is subjected to regular derogatory slurs in the office. This kind of harmful discrimination is, unfortunately, a day-to-day reality for many. Numerous others are facing similar issues as Genero and Travis. If you believe you have experienced discrimination or harassment because of your sexual orientation, speak with a LGBTQ discrimination lawyer at Theory Law APC to learn about your rights.
What is LGBTQ Discrimination
LGBTQ discrimination is the unfavorable or prejudiced treatment of individuals based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. In the workplace, it can take various forms, from biased hiring decisions and unfair treatment to outright harassment and bullying. It can be particularly damaging in the workplace, leading to a hostile environment, reduced opportunities, and damaged mental well-being.
Consider Travis, a highly skilled and dedicated software developer, from the example above. When he transitioned from female to male and started to express his gender identity at work, his superiors began to systematically exclude him from important meetings. His colleagues made offensive comments, which created a hostile work environment, and he was later fired because of his sexual orientation. This is a textbook example of LGBTQ discrimination, where the biases of others disrupt the ability of an individual to perform and grow in their role.
Or let’s examine the case of Mona, a marketing manager who identifies as a lesbian. When her company’s senior leadership found out about her sexual orientation, they stopped considering her for promotions. She watched her less qualified colleagues advance while her career stagnated. This is another glaring yet common example of workplace LGBTQ discrimination.
These examples are not the only ways the LGBTQ community is affected in the workplace. The challenges they face can also include:
- Inaccessible or unsafe bathrooms
- Gender identity discrimination
- Sexuality discrimination
- Harassment creating a hostile workplace
- Sexual harassment
- Harassment or discrimination because of same-sex marriage
- Exclusion from colleagues, activities, training, and social events
- Reduced or inadequate benefits, including denial of healthcare coverage
- Pay gap compared to their peers
Can Employers Ask About an Employee’s LGBQT Status?
Sadly, instances like Travis and Mona are not isolated. Many employees experience similar unjust treatment daily, often suffering in silence due to fear of retaliation or lack of information about their rights. In fact, this fear often leads to a pertinent question: can an employer ask about an employee’s sexual orientation? Simply put, no, they cannot. Inquiries about an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity are inappropriate and potentially discriminatory.
Setting the Legal Stage: Federal and California Laws
Our first port of call is the legal framework that protects the rights of the LGBTQ community in the workplace. Two critical pieces of legislation stand out: California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. These laws provide substantial protections against discrimination, including sexual orientation discrimination, in the workplace. Further, an employer is not permitted to retaliate against an employee for reporting instances of sexual orientation discrimination.
The FEHA prohibits discrimination and unfair employment practices on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. It covers a wide range of employment practices such as hiring, firing, promotion, wages, training, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. California’s FEHA applies to employers with five or more employees, and offers broader protections than federal laws. An employee or job applicant can bring a claim for LGBTQ discrimination against an employer covered by the FEHA by filing a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) or speaking with an attorney.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, which has been interpreted to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The federal law applies to employers with 15 or more employees and also covers various aspects of employment, including hiring, promotions, wages, termination, and other employment term or condition. A claim for LGBTQ discrimination can be made through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if the employer is subject to federal laws.
Direct Discrimination vs Indirect Discrimination
There are three major forms of LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace:
- Direct Discrimination. This is direct LGBTQ discrimination, when an employee or job applicant is treated differently or targeted based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Consider Travis from our example above, he endured direct discrimination.
- Indirect Discrimination. This involves indirect LGBTQ discrimination, resulting from a workplace having certain policies, rules, or requirements that may appear neutral and apply to all, but can have an adverse impact on the employee of a certain sexual orientation. An example of this might be a company policy requiring employees to adhere to “traditional” dress codes aligned with their biological sex. While the rule might appear neutral, it disproportionately affects transgender or gender non-conforming employees, creating a disparate impact.
- Harassment. This is harassment of an individual of a certain sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a harmful form of discrimination that targets an individual based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, creating a hostile workplace and it significantly damages the mental well-being of the employee.
Deconstructing Sexual Orientation Harassment
Harassment at work can impede the victim’s ability to perform their job effectively, leading to decreased productivity, health issues, and, in the worst cases, can push the individual to leave their job entirely.
Sexual orientation harassment can happen in different ways. It can involve derogatory remarks, jokes, or slurs related to an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. It can also involve unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors as a quid pro quo—leading the victim to think they will get something in return for the employer’s satisfaction with a sexual demand. In other severe cases, it can even escalate to physical assaults or threats.
Consider the case of Travis, he has been subjected to daily offensive comments from his colleagues because of his gender identity. Despite his complaints, his manager dismisses it as “harmless banter” and does nothing about it. This is a clear instance of LQBTQ harassment, and such behavior is entirely unacceptable.
Examples of Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace
There are many ways LGBTQ discrimination can occur at work. Some examples of ways that members of the LGBTQ community may be treated differently at work include:
- Inappropriate or offensive comments
- Denial of benefits
- Refusal to hire
- Inadequate support or training
- Unequal job opportunities, which can include being prevented from advancing their career, pass over for a promotion, demotion
- Reduced or unequal pay
- Negative or poor performance reviews or annual reviews
- Exclusion from company events
The Components of a Sexual Orientation Discrimination Case
Bringing a LQBTQ discrimination case can seem daunting, but here at Theory Law APC, our office handles all types of discrimination cases.
Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), several key elements must be established to make a valid sexual orientation discrimination claim. Some of these components are the same under Title VII. Below are some of the essential components needed to prove a claim for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation:
- First, the employer must be subject to the law, whether the employer has five or more employees for the FEHA to apply or 15 or more employees for Title VII.
- The employee must show that they belong to a protected class, this would mean they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, or queer.
- An adverse employment action was taken against the employee, this could be firing, suspension, demotion, denial of promotion, refusal to hire, reduced pay, or any other action that negatively affects their term or condition of employment.
- Must show that the adverse employment action was taken against the employee because of their sexual orientation.
Is a Los Angeles LGBTQ Discrimination Lawyer Needed?
We understand the difficulties you may have experienced at your workplace. We cannot undo what happened to you. However, our law firm will fight for you and hold your employer accountable to justice. When you believe your employer discriminated against you because of your sexual orientation, you can take some steps to document the instances of discrimination.
- Note the date, time, location, people involved, and what exactly happened.
- Any witnesses to derogatory comments made about your sexual orientation or the discrimination? Note their contact information and a brief summary of what they witnessed.
- Gather records of employment-related documents, including performance reviews, disciplinary records, email or message exchanges, and any other relevant paperwork.
- Employees can also make a written complaint detailing the harassment or discrimination to their supervisor or the employer’s human resources department.
Recognizing LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace is no small task. It requires knowledge, courage, and a lot of support. If you believe you have been a victim of LGBTQ discrimination or harassment, you don’t have to go through it without the legal support of an attorney. At Theory Law APC, we understand the complexities of sexual orientation discrimination and have the experience to guide you through the process of a claim. Seek help from a knowledgeable Los Angeles Discrimination Lawyer at Theory Law APC. Our office can guide you through the process and help you understand your rights and options. You can be confident that your rights are protected, your voice will be heard, and your fight against discrimination will be a shared one.
How Can Theory Law Help You?
If you need help regarding a legal matter and would like to discuss it with an attorney, please call (310) 500-0206 or complete and submit the e-mail form below, and the attorney will contact you.