The LGBT community has made a lot of gains in recent years as far as civil liberties go. However, these individuals still receive discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation with glaring frequency. Although the federal government has laws against discriminating against a person’s sex, race, religion and national origin, there are not currently any federal laws regarding sexual orientation. Everyone is entitled to respect, and no one should feel discriminated against something that they were born with. Your company should have policies in place that offer protections to everyone regardless of how they are being harassed.
State and Local Laws
There may not be any federal laws on this subject, but plenty of states have laws on the books that prohibit discrimination against an individual’s sexual orientation. The states that have laws against this form of discrimination in both public and private institutions include
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
In addition to these states, many cities have local laws that offer protection for people within the LGBT community. You should check whether your city’s laws make it mandatory for your company to have a policy against sexual orientation discrimination. Some states and cities also have laws that protect individuals’ gender identity, so that is another legal area you should look into.
Other Legal Grounds
Even if your state or city does not have any explicit protections on the grounds of sexual orientation, employees may still be able to file a lawsuit based on the nature of the harassment. For example, employees cannot be exposed to any form of emotional distress, assault, battery, defamation, invasion of privacy or wrongful termination. If an employee believes that he or she was fired due to his or her sexual orientation, then a lawsuit could still be filed on the grounds that a wrongful termination occurred.
What to Do If an Employee Comes to You About Discrimination
Lawsuits are a severe financial drain on any company, and you should do everything in your power to prevent them from happening. First, your company, no matter how big or small it may be, should have a policy in place clearly laying out what constitutes harassment, and it should include information about how someone should not be discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation. It should also detail how people should go about handling harassment.
As the employer, your workers should feel comfortable turning to you if they have experienced any form of discrimination. If a complaint is filed, then you need to act immediately. If you receive a complaint and do not do anything, then you may be held liable in an upcoming lawsuit. First, you need to collect any evidence. This can include emails or threatening notes a worker received. If it was just an offhand comment, then it may be harder to document. However, you can meet with the party in question and talk to him or her about the comment. Denials may take place, but if it was just a one-time occurrence that did not display any continuing malice, then a verbal warning may be all the action that is necessary. In the event that a more severe form of discrimination took place and sufficient evidence exists to support that, then termination of employment may be necessary.
All your employees should feel comfortable at your company, and regardless of what the law is in your area, you should take essential actions to prevent discrimination from occurring. By putting in place proper measures from the start, you can create a safe workplace for every one of your employees, and avoid any troublesome legal matters.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.