Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Federal law does not specifically protect against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. New York employees are still protected from such discrimination, however, by city and state anti-discrimination laws, which prohibit employers from discriminating against an employee because of their sexual orientation.

While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission interprets Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination as forbidding sexual orientation discrimination, the EEOC’s position is not legally binding, and New York courts currently do not consider sexual orientation discrimination to be a violation of Title VII. However, New York city and state laws have robust provisions to protect the rights of LGBT employees.

Sexual orientation discrimination involves treating an applicant or employee unfavorably because of their sexual orientation: for example, paying an employee a lower salary because he is gay, or refusing to provide spousal health insurance benefits to an employee because her spouse is of the same sex while providing spousal benefits to different-sex couples. Sexual orientation discrimination can also involve treating someone unfavorably because the person associates with a person of a certain sexual orientation, such as discriminating against an employee because she has a gay family member.

Harassment on the basis of sexual orientation includes things like making offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s sexual orientation or using homophobic slurs. Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment action, such as termination.

Harassers and discriminators can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer. Harassment and discrimination can happen to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation; for instance, it is possible for a straight employee to be discriminated against by a gay supervisor.

The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. If a person is treated badly by their employer for their complaints of sexual orientation discrimination or harassment—for example, by being terminated after complaining about discrimination—they may also have a retaliation claim.

The Harman Firm, LLP is dedicated to protecting the rights of employees who have been discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. Contact the experienced legal professionals at The Harman Firm, LLP for supportive counseling and aggressive representation in sexual orientation discrimination claims.

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