While civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have come a long way in the last decade, there is still no nationwide law protecting LGBTQ workers from harassment or discrimination in the workplace.
According to Lambda Legal, while 28 states have laws prohibiting discrimination, workers can still be harassed or fired in states without discrimination laws. Federal government employees are protected from discrimination, however, these protections do not extend to the private sector.
Harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ workers can include:
- Infliction of emotional distress
- Sexual harassment
- Assault and battery
- Invasion of privacy
- Defamation of character
- Wrongful termination
Fortunately, American's attitudes towards LGBTQ people have changed dramatically since the mid-2000s and seem to be having a positive effect on how Fortune 500 companies handle discrimination in the workplace.
In 2016, the Pew Research Center reported that 63% of Americans believed that homosexuality should be accepted in society, compared to 51% in 2006. In addition, 89% of Fortune 500 companies have implemented new and updated policies barring discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.
Being the target of discrimination or abuse in the workplace can make you feel isolated and powerless, in addition to potentially hurting your chances of securing employment in the future, if you're the target of defamation.
Even if you live in a state with few provisions and laws in place for LGBTQ workers, check with your company's human resources department. You might find that there are company policies in place to protect against sexual or gender discrimination.
Do you need help with protecting and asserting your workplace rights as an LGBTQ employee? Consult with an experienced lawyer in your state, who can explain your rights and determine if you have an actionable employment discrimination claim.