Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Workplace: What You Need to Know

Published: 23rd July 2009
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Gays and lesbians are vulnerable to harassment and discrimination because of their sexual orientation. But with the growing awareness and acceptance, the society has realized that these people should be given the equal rights just like everyone else.

Presently, there is a federal anti-discriminatory law that protects gay people and prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in all federal institutions. However, this law does not cover gays who are working in private companies.

While the federal law is limited, many states such as California, New York, Washington, Connecticut, Oregon, Rhode Island, and New Jersey have laws that prohibit any form of discrimination against gay people working from private companies. Also, many cities and counties have outlawed discrimination based on sexual preference.

Meanwhile, some states and cities have no anti-discrimination law that protects gay workers. Still, a pragmatic employer should not allow discrimination in his office or company since he is legally liable in incidents which involve harassment, assault, invasion of privacy, wrongful termination, breach of contract, and defamation against gay workers.

According to lawyers, employers should provide training for their workers that will teach them about employment discrimination. Providing such training is practical since employers may not only avoid costly lawsuit, but also allow workers to be productive since they are free from harassment and discrimination.

To create a workplace free from abuses, discrimination, and harassment, many companies across the US have included policies which prohibit discrimination against gay workers. Such policies include penalties for the harasser or anyone who will commit discriminatory act and guidelines on the proper conduct and behavior.

Here are the other ways an employer can do to prevent sexual orientation discrimination:

1. Understand current laws. Employers should know the current laws that protect workers from marginalized sectors including gay people.

2. Make sure that employment processes (e.g. recruitment, promotion, termination, etc.) are consistent and fair.

3. If an applicant or employee reveals his/her sexual orientation, employers and supervisors should keep it confidential.

4. Communicate and ask workers if there is any discriminatory act happening in the workplace.

5. Observe if workers understand and follow the company's anti-discrimination policies.

6. Provide workers with regular training about sexual orientation laws, prevention, and policies.

7. Establish a complaint process and assign a credible supervisor who will handle cases of sexual orientation discrimination.

8. During an investigation, employers should make certain decisions that will prevent further discrimination and harassment. These include reassigning the complainant and the alleged harasser from different areas and asking the involved parties to avoid each other while the investigation is still ongoing.

9. Encourage workers to report any case of discrimination to the company's complaint process. Employers can avoid costly lawsuit if a worker reports such incident to the company instead of reporting this to a federal court.

10. Do not retaliate against workers who file sexual orientation lawsuit.

To help you deal with issues on sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, consult with our expert employment lawyers. Visit our website and call us toll free for legal assistance.

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