Although our society and laws have made considerable progress in the past decade regarding LGBT social and legal issues, individuals who are gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender-nonconforming can still face bigotry and other difficulties in the workplace. When bigotry reaches the point where it limits an individual’s ability to perform his or her job or advance in his or her career, it is discrimination.
LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace
Discrimination is a broad range of mistreatment based on an individual’s membership in a protected class. LGBT discrimination, like all other types of discrimination, can take many different forms. These include:
- Harassment. This includes lewd remarks, intrusive questions about the individual’s lifestyle and preferences, and the use of crude, derogatory language toward him or her;
- Refusing to hire or promote LGBT individuals;
- Denying an LGBT individual the same workplace benefits the company provides for other employees;
- Terminating an employee after finding out he or she is LGBT; and
- Denying an LGBT individual certain workplace rights, such as taking unpaid time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
State-level versus Federal Protection for LGBT Workers
The United States’ primary anti-workplace discrimination law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, does not include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes This means that at the federal level, it is technically legal to discriminate against employees based on these characteristics. However, sex is a federally protected class, and there have been numerous cases where discrimination victims have successfully argued that the treatment they faced based on their gender identities and sexual orientations fell under this category.
In Illinois, gender identity and sexual orientation are protected classes. This means that Illinois employers cannot discriminate against LGBT employees in any way.
What to Do if you Face LGBT Discrimination in your Workplace
Document everything. From inappropriate comments to larger instances where you are treated differently from your colleagues based on your sexual orientation, have a file with documentation of every piece of harassment and discrimination you face. This is the evidence you will use to support your claim when you discuss it with Human Resources or when you file a discrimination claim with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You cannot file a discrimination lawsuit without first filing a claim with the IDHR.
If you face LGBT discrimination at work, discuss the situation with an experienced employment lawyer to determine the most productive way to move forward with the case.
Work with an Experienced Chicago Employment Lawyer
Workplace discrimination can take quite a toll on your health and your career. Rather than allowing your career to be inhibited by discrimination at work, speak up and take action against your employer – you have that right, and our team of employment lawyers at Lopez & Sanchez can help you exercise it. Contact our firm today to set up your free legal consultation with us.
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