What to do if you experience LGBTQ+ Discrimination in the Workplace
Courtesy of Elizabeth Van Arsdall
Many people don’t realize that the workplace protections that are guaranteed to workers
through the Federal Civil Rights Act also apply to LGBTQ+ workers. If you are LGBTQ+, your
employer cannot discriminate against you or harass you because of that. Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act says that employers cannot discriminate based on race, color, sex, orientation,
gender, religion, or country of birth. The protections of the Civil Rights Act apply to all
members of the LGBTQ+ community just like they do for other workers. If you have
experienced discrimination at work for being LGBTQ+ you can file a complaint with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission and with state employment authorities.
Examples Of Workplace Discrimination
Discrimination against LGBTQ+ people might be blatant or very subtle. Some examples of
workplace discrimination experienced by LGBTQ+ people include:
• Not Being Promoted. If you are passed over for a promotion but someone without your
experience or education is promoted that could be due to discrimination.
• Derogatory comments or slurs. Comments that promote stereotypes or that are
demeaning and derogatory are discrimination. Always. There is no gray area. Even if
someone says they were joking it’s still discrimination. LGBTQ slurs and the use of
offensive terms is also discrimination.
• Asking you what your gender is. Your employer and coworkers cannot ask you what
your gender is, what your sexual orientation is, or any other personal questions
regarding your status as LGBTQ+.
• Misgendering you on purpose. If your coworkers and bosses deliberately misgender
you, continue to use your dead name, or consistently refer to you as the wrong sex as
a joke that’s discrimination.
• Dress Code Restrictions. Employers cannot force gender norms through dress codes,
although some do try. For example, they can’t require that some employees wear
skirts, pantyhose, or high heels. They also can’t require that some employees not have
facial hair or have certain hairstyles.
Filing A Workplace Discrimination Claim
When you are ready to confront your employer about the harassment that you’re experiencing
you should write down a list of all the incidents of discrimination that you’ve experienced.
Write down the date, what happened, and who was part of it. Also include any evidence that
you can get of what happened like screenshots, photos, copies of documents, or statements
from coworkers who witnessed it. Take that list to your boss and to HR. If they don’t take any
action to make the harassment stop then you should file a complaint with the EEOC.
If you have experienced discrimination at work, you have the right to file a claim with the
EEOC against your employer. The first step is to write a right to sue letter. The EEOC shares
information with 44 states, so if you work in one of those states the EEOC will automatically
copies of everything that you submit to the state authorities so that the state can also
investigate your employer. You can file an EEOC complaint online through the EEOC’s website.
Penalties For Discrimination
Your employer could end up in serious trouble for Civil Rights Act violations. They could end
up with huge fines as well as criminal penalties. You may receive a lump sum of money for
pain and suffering or for back pay, or you may receive a promotion if you were denied one
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