Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace

The legal protection for gay and lesbian workers against sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace varies depending on where you work.

Federal Laws: It is important to note that there is no Federal Law that specifically outlaws workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the private sector. While there is growing Congressional support for a bill addressing this issue, attempts to pass federal legislation (such as the Employee Non-Discrimination Act) have been unsuccessful to date. Recently, President Obama directed his staff to draft an executive order that would ban workplace discrimination against LGBT employees of federal contractors. Obama’s move is the clearest indication to date the administration is prepared to take action in ways that don’t require legislative approval. It may also help bring public pressure on House Republicans to take up ENDA. (See our previous blog: President Obama Moves to End LGBT Workplace Discrimination

State Laws: While thirteen states and the District of Columbia currently have laws prohibiting sexual orientation in both public and private jobs, Florida is not among them. There is increasing support, however, for the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing and public accommodations. The Act would amend Ch. 760 of the Florida State Statues that currently prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex national origin, age, handicap, or marital status. In January 2014, eleven politically influential corporations (including Disney World, Wells Fargo, and the Florida Fortune 500 companies Tech Data and Darden Restaurants) launched the Florida Business Coalition for a Competitive Workforce, aimed at getting the bill passed.

Local Laws: In the absence of both Federal and State law, gay and lesbian workers may still by protected by city and county ordinances. In South Florida, Palm Beach, Broward and Sarasota counties, as well as several cities within Miami-Dade County, have human rights laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Company Policies: Some companies have adopted their own policies prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination. These policies prohibit such conduct and often provide disciplinary guidelines for dealing managers who discriminate.

Other Laws: If you are not protected by a sexual orientation discrimination law or ordinance, you still may be able to sue your employer or coworkers citing more general legal grounds including:

  • Intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress
  • Harassment
  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Invasion of privacy
  • Defamation
  • Interference with an employment contract
  • Wrongful termination

If you feel you have been discriminated against in the workplace due to your sexual orientation, please contact us online or call our offices at (561) 653-0008 to discuss how we can help you. At Scott • Wagner and Associates, our approachable and knowledgeable lawyers are dedicated to providing skilled legal representation for your unique situation.

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