There is sometimes a bit of confusion when it comes to discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, it is important for employers and employees to understand that this type of discrimination is completely illegal.
Discrimination was outlawed by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It specifically mentions race, religion, color, national origin and sex. It does not specifically identify the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, which is why the confusion occurs. The law appears not to offer proper protection.
However, in 2015, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) determined once and for all that the law does extend to LGBT workers. They say that it falls under the umbrella of sex-based discrimination, which is directly referenced.
“Sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination because it necessarily entails treating an employee less favorably because of the employee’s sex,” the EEOC noted in their statement explaining the ruling.
This was a groundbreaking change, but it does often take time for workplace cultures to shift. Even though it has been three years since the ruling, there is a good chance that many workers in the LGBT community are facing discrimination, harassment and other issues — perhaps from employers or co-workers who acted that way for decades and who do not realize that the law has been expanded and reinterpreted to make such action illegal.
If this happens to you, it can be crushing and frustrating. Do not get discouraged. Know that the law really is on your side. Make sure that you understand all of the legal options you have to protect yourself and uphold all of your rights.