Sexual Orientation Discrimination
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed August 24, 2022
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Sexual orientation discrimination is a quickly changing area of law.
In the landmark 2020 case Bostock v. Clayton County, 140 S.Ct. 1731, the Supreme Court ruled that unlawful discrimination based on "sex" includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As a result, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (or “Title VII") affirmatively protects millions of LGBTQ+ Americans from workplace discrimination. Employers who discriminate against employees on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation can face civil rights lawsuits under the Supreme Court decision.
Prior to the decision, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforced Title VII to include discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees, but the enforcement was subject to change by administrations or courts with different interpretations of the law.
There are also broader and more explicit protections for LGBTQ+ employees available under state law (and the District of Columbia) and in some municipalities, cities, and counties, and many private employers have created their own LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination policies.
Read through the articles in this section for more information on sexual orientation discrimination and keep checking back as this area of law continues to unfold.
Fighting Sexual Orientation Discrimination on the Job
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 recognizes basic human rights and prohibits various forms of discrimination against protected classes, including sex, race, and national origin. Title VII of the Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. That means gay men, lesbians, and transgender people are part of a protected class entitled to legal recourse when they experience workplace bias, including a hostile work environment created by co-workers, under federal law.
If you have faced employment discrimination or other adverse employment action based on your sexual orientation or gender identity, there are steps you can take to strengthen your claim, including collecting and preserving evidence of discrimination, documenting your effectiveness at the job, and understanding your company's workplace policies and protections. A local employment lawyer's assistance can help identify legal remedies and additional steps to pursue a claim.
Once you have taken these steps, you can file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is the federal agency responsible for investigating workplace discrimination claims based on an employee's sexual orientation.
The EEOC will investigate your charge under federal discrimination laws and notify you of their conclusions. Once you have received that notification, you can file a civil rights lawsuit in the federal courts.
In addition to having grounds for a civil rights lawsuit on the basis of sex discrimination, other causes of action that may arise from sexual orientation discrimination include negligent or intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, invasion of privacy, and defamation. A lawyer can give you legal advice about these and possibly other claims under employment law.
Laws for the protection of the LGBTQ+ community are rapidly changing. The Supreme Court, federal government, and an increasing number of states have indicated that they view sexual orientation and gender identity as a constitutionally protected matter of individual privacy rights. There are also an increasing number of local laws that provide protections to gay and transgender people.
As always, an attorney's assistance can be helpful in determining the current status of the law and your rights.
Learn About Sexual Orientation Discrimination
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