Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace
In cases of discrimination in the workplace, there are many different types of discrimination that employers and employees need to not only be aware of, but they need to ensure are not present in the workplace. One of those types of discrimination is sexual orientation discrimination. Sexual orientation discrimination is also considered a form of gender discrimination.
Both sexual orientation discrimination and perceived sexual orientation discrimination are illegal. This means that regardless of a person’s actual sexual orientation, if an employer perceives an employee is of a particular sexual orientation and fires that employee because of that, the employee is a victim of sexual orientation discrimination. Simply put, a person’s sexual orientation plays no role in their ability to perform their job.
Although federal law does not currently prohibit this type of employment discrimination, state law does. Additionally, state or federal gender or sex role discrimination laws may apply. If you or someone you love has been discriminated against due to sexual orientation, you need to consult with a Washington employment law attorney from our firm without delay. Keep in mind, you have a limited time to file a sexual orientation suit, so time is of the essence.
Washington Laws Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination
Though the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation nationwide, has not yet been passed into law, Washington state passed its own sexual orientation discrimination provision in 2006. The law applies to every Washington citizen, not just gay people, as it clearly defines sexual orientation as heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender expression or identity. Although gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals are statistically the most frequent targets of sexual orientation discrimination, Washington law specifically protects heterosexual persons from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as well. For example, the law will protect a heterosexual person who is discriminated against in employment simply because he or she is heterosexual.
Washington law states that an employer may not consider sexual orientation or gender identity as a factor in making employment decisions. The law also protects all people from harassment and from a hostile work environment due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Like other discrimination cases, if an employer violates the law, it may be found liable for a wide range of penalties to make the employee “whole” again, including back wages, front wages, policy changes, promotions, hiring or reinstatement, accrued leave or other lost benefits, non-retaliation, ceasing and desisting illegal acts, required implementation of policies, and punitive or humiliation damages.
State law also sets out guidelines and provisions on how employers should treat transgender and individuals undergoing gender transitions. For instance, though employers have a right to establish employee dress and grooming guidelines during work hours if they are reasonable and serve a legitimate business purpose, if possible employers should allow transitioning employees to dress and present themselves as the gender to which they are transitioning. Furthermore, employees should be able to use the restroom appropriate for the gender to which they are transitioning.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that victims of sexual orientation discrimination are also the victim of other types of workplace discrimination which can lead to harassment and a hostile work environment. But as an employee, you do have rights, regardless of your actual or perceived sexual orientation. Let us help protect those rights.
The attorneys at our firm are well versed and experienced with sexual orientation discrimination cases. We have over 40 years focusing on employment law and a team of exceptionally qualified attorneys consisting of former clerks, judges, deputy prosecutors and attorneys from some of the most prestigious schools and law firms around the U.S. prepared to give you the best representation possible.
In cases of sexual orientation discrimination, contact a Washington employment law attorney at HKM Employment Attorneys today to schedule a private consultation.