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Discrimination of the LGBTQ community in the Workplace

by | May 30, 2024 | Discrimination

Discrimination of the LGBTQ community in the Workplace

Your Rights Are Protected: Understanding LGBTQ Discrimination in California Workplaces

Imagine working hard at your job, excelling in your tasks, yet facing mistreatment or unfair treatment simply because of your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Unfortunately, this is a reality for some LGBTQ employees in California. However, the law is on your side.

This blog post provides a breakdown of California’s LGBTQ discrimination protections in the workplace, ensuring you understand your rights and what actions to take if you face discrimination.

Know Your Protections: California Law Prohibits Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) works in tandem with Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act to shield employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. This means your employer cannot:

  • Fire or demote you
  • Refuse to hire or promote you
  • Harass you
  • Offer you lower wages or deny benefits
  • Treat you differently than other employees

These protections apply in various work situations, including interviews, performance reviews, and company events.

Exceptions: Understanding Who May Be Exempt

While most employers are bound by these anti-discrimination laws, a few exceptions exist:

  • Religious organizations: Certain employees of religious institutions like churches or mosques may have limited protections.
  • Very small employers: California’s discrimination protections apply to companies with at least 5 employees (harassment protections cover all businesses, even with one employee). Federal protections apply to companies with at least 15 employees.

Remember: If you’re unsure if your employer size falls under these protections, seek legal guidance.

Harassment is Unacceptable: Recognizing and Responding to LGBTQ Harassment

Harassment is a form of discrimination that creates a hostile work environment. This can include:

  • Offensive or derogatory comments about your sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Unwanted physical contact or advances
  • Deliberately using the wrong name or pronouns after you’ve corrected them
  • Spreading rumors or gossip about your personal life

Crucially, the behavior must be unwelcome and severe enough to interfere with your ability to work.

If you experience harassment, document it with dates, times, witnesses, and specific details. Report the incident to your supervisor, Human Resources, or a trusted colleague. Consider using the company’s grievance procedure if available. Finally, seek legal help from an organization specializing in LGBTQ rights.

Your Identity Matters: Respect for Non-Binary and Transitioning Employees

California law recognizes non-binary and gender non-conforming identities. Your employer must treat you with respect and address you by your chosen name and pronouns, regardless of your legal documents. Transitioning on the job is also protected – you have the right to inform your employer and expect them to treat you fairly throughout the process.

Frequently Asked Questions: Addressing Common Concerns

Can I be asked about my sexual orientation or gender identity in an interview? – No. It’s illegal for interviewers to inquire about your sexual orientation or gender identity, directly or indirectly.

What if my employer mistakes my sexual orientation or gender identity? – California law protects against discrimination based on “perceived” sexual orientation and gender identity. Even if your employer misunderstands you, they cannot discriminate.

Can my employer discriminate against me for having LGBTQ friends or family? – No. California protects you from discrimination based on association with LGBTQ individuals.

Does my employer-provided health insurance need to cover gender-affirming care? – Yes. Under California law, employer-provided health plans must include medically necessary gender-affirming care like they cover other necessary treatments.

What if I face retaliation for complaining about discrimination? – Retaliation is illegal. If you suspect this, document everything and seek legal help.

Taking Action: Resources and Support

If you face discrimination or harassment based on your sexual orientation or gender identity, here’s what you can do:

  • Document everything: Keep detailed records of incidents.
  • Speak Up: If safe, report the incident to your supervisor, HR, or a union representative.
  • Seek Help: Contact the ACLU or other LGBTQ rights organizations for legal advice and support.
  • File a Complaint: You can file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).

Remember, you are not alone. California law protects your right to work in a fair and respectful environment, regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity.

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