Sexual Harassment: How to Recognize Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Workplaces in California must be welcoming of all employees, regardless of sex, gender, race, age, disability, or sexual orientation. Employers and coworkers cannot discriminate against an employee on the basis of any protected class, including gender identity, marital status, or real or perceived HIV disability. Doing so would constitute sexual harassment and discrimination, and could result in penalties against the employer. Recognizing sexual orientation discrimination at work is the first step toward obtaining compensation.

Examples of Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Discrimination is the unjust treatment of a person on the grounds of sex, race, or another protected class. Harassment is a step further, involving aggressive behaviors, pressure, or intimidation from one or more parties at work. Discrimination and harassment in the workplace can make where you work a hostile, unproductive environment. This can make it impossible to do your job or feel safe at work. You may be the victim of sexual orientation discrimination or harassment if any of the following has occurred at work.

  • Employer overlooking you for a job, project, or promotion
  • Employer punishing you with no basis
  • Anyone commenting negatively about your sexual orientation
  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Receiving hostile comments, notes, or emails
  • Sexual jokes or innuendos
  • Inappropriate gestures or facial expressions
  • Unwanted touching or grabbing
  • Wrongful termination

Sexual orientation discrimination can come from your employer, coworkers, clients, and others in the workplace. It can be frustrating to encounter discrimination at work because of your sexual orientation. However, laws exist that protect gay, lesbian, and transgender rights in California and throughout the U.S. You can take steps to protect your rights and hold at-fault parties accountable for their unlawful actions.

Laws Protecting Citizens From Sexual Orientation Discrimination

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 has a provision that makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of sex, religion, race, national origin, or color. It also makes retaliation or disciplining someone for coming forward with a charge of discrimination illegal. Same-sex couples may receive further protection from discrimination and harassment in the future, with the passing of The Equality Act, a law introduced to Congress that would give permanent protection to LGBT individuals in terms of employment, housing, federal funding, education, and more.

Several states have also passed sexual orientation discrimination laws, including the District of Columbia and 22 states. California takes LGBT rights seriously and has enacted its own protective laws. The Fair Employment and Housing Act is a California law that makes illegal the discrimination against an employee or job applicant on the basis of a protected class. If someone has discriminated against you because of your sexual orientation in California, you have rights.

Seeking Restitution for Discrimination in California

It is your right as an employee in California to speak out against sexual orientation harassment and discrimination. If you notice signs of these illegal activities in your workplace, such as people treating you differently or missing out on a promotion you should have gotten, speak to an attorney about your options.

Go to Human Resources in your office and report your experience. If your employer does not resolve the issue, report your case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will investigate your workplace and may help mediate a solution. You may also be eligible for compensation and reimbursement as the victim of sexual orientation discrimination in California.

Filing a discrimination lawsuit against your employer could hold the workplace accountable for its misconduct. It could also result in payment for your lost wages, lost job opportunities, back pay, wrongful termination losses, emotional distress, attorney and court fees, and punitive damages. You could be eligible for thousands of dollars in damages from an employer or workplace that engaged in sexual orientation discrimination against you.