LGBTQ+ Employment Discrimination Law
One in four LGBTQ+ individuals have reported facing discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The unemployment rate for transgender individuals is three times higher than the national average. Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act has been interpreted to prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, even though its language does not explicitly include these terms.
Moreover, some states and cities provide express protection against LGBTQ+ employment discrimination, and often they provide protection to employees of small employers. Title VII only covers employers that have at least 15 employees. It is wise to consult an experienced employment attorney about the laws in your area that may protect you if you believe that you may have been mistreated in your workplace based on being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.
Same-Sex Couples and Employment Benefits
In Obergefell v. Hodges, the US Supreme Court required all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize same-sex marriages that were legitimately performed in other jurisdictions. In doing so, the Court overturned the ability to discriminate between opposite-sex and same-sex couples with regard to employment benefits as well. All same-sex couples are entitled to marry, and their employers cannot exclude their spouses from benefits based on the gender of the spouse. For example, an employer cannot decide that it will provide health insurance benefits to employees with opposite-sex spouses but refuse to provide these benefits to the same-sex spouses of their employees.
Sexual Orientation Discrimination
Sexual orientation discrimination occurs in the workplace when an employer treats an employee adversely due to his or her sexual orientation, whether he or she is asexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian, or transgender. For example, if your employer will not promote you because you are gay or because you are perceived to be gay, this would be sexual orientation discrimination. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, Title VII prohibits sexual orientation discrimination.
There also are state and local laws that expressly forbid sexual orientation discrimination. When these laws exist, they may provide stronger remedies than does Title VII. Some of the states that prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in public and private workplaces include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. Other states have executive orders prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in public employment. Some cities and localities in states that do not provide protection against sexual orientation discrimination have enacted ordinances prohibiting it.
Transgender/Gender Identity Discrimination
Transgender individuals can bring claims for gender identity discrimination under Title VII, based on the same Supreme Court decision that found that Title VII covers sexual orientation discrimination. States that prohibit gender identity discrimination in both public and private sectors include Washington, Vermont, Utah, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Oregon, New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, Nevada, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Iowa, Illinois, Hawaii, Delaware, Connecticut, Colorado, and California, as well as Washington, DC, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Some cities like New York City expressly prohibit gender identity discrimination.
LGBTQ+ Legal Resource Center Contents