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Sexual Orientation and Your Job

There are federal and state laws protecting employees from discrimination in the workplace and these laws apply to sexual orientation. No matter what your sexual orientation, you are legally entitled to be protected from harassment or differential treatment. You might be further protected by specific company policies regarding sexual orientation, too.

What Do Sexual Orientation Protections Include?

Some employees, and employers for that matter, are concerned someone cannot be disciplined if he or she falls into a protected class because of his or her sexual orientation. This is not the case! The goal of discrimination laws is to ensure everyone is treated equally regardless of sexual orientation, not to provide for preferential treatment. A person in a protected class can be disciplined for wrong behavior or poor performance, but cannot be harassed when he or she is performing as expected.

Determining whether or not an issue is related to discrimination or justifiable discipline should be simple: if an employee performs his or her job duties as expected and adheres to company policy, he or she should not be overlooked for promotions or raises, written up, or wrongfully terminated. He or she is also protected from harassment that does not affect the job specifically, such as comments regarding sexual orientation.

This does not mean a person who chooses not approve of another’s sexual orientation is at risk for discipline; it simply means everyone must agree to be respectful toward one another in the workplace, and if applicable, not let anyone’s sexual orientation or opinion of such interfere with workplace decisions.

Sexual Orientation Discrimination and the Law

Federal laws providing protection in the private sector regarding sexual orientation discrimination, as well as gender identity are in the process of being enacted, and individual companies have policies regarding sexual orientation discrimination. There are state and local laws that address these issues, as well, and most companies now have policies in place address sexual orientation discrimination.  For more information about discrimination laws, visit the US Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.

If you are concerned about sexual orientation discrimination in your workplace, it is important you review your company policy and speak with someone in the human resources department. Even if there is no specific policy against sexual orientation discrimination, the person harassing you could be in violation of other polices related to assault, sexual harassment, invasion of privacy, or creating a hostile work environment.

Ideally, your issue will be resolved by your employer, but if not, you have a right to take legal action. If you are a victim of sexual orientation discrimination or you believe there are policies being violated or ignored in your workplace related to discrimination, we can help. Contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to discuss your situation.

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