Big Win for LGBTQ Workers

lgbtq workersLGBT workers win big just days since the Trump administration put forth regulations denying health care benefits for Transgender Americans, literally denying the civil rights for patients who seek medical services. In a major contrast to the Administration’s view, however, the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ workers should be afforded the same protections as every other American. 

Discrimination on the Basis of “Sex” 

At issue is the meaning of the word “sex” in discussions of discrimination. Under the Obama administration, provisions related to sex discrimination included issues related to gender identification. The current administration however, believed that the legal reality separated transgender people from others in terms of discrimination rules. That gave doctors the right to refuse to treat transgender people if they choose. 

The LGBTQ Workers Supreme Court Ruling 

It appears that the Trump Administration came into direct conflict with a Supreme Court ruling that affirmed federal laws stating that government must fully protect transgender individuals from discrimination. In a 6-3 vote, the court stated that employers cannot fire workers simply because they are homosexual or transgender. The ruling was embedded in the 1964 statute—Title VII of the Civil Rights Act–barring discrimination on the basis of several factors, one of which is sex.  Conservative voices have contended that the law was written without  transgender people in mind decades ago.  However, as Justice Gorsuch wrote in the majority decision, “It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discrimination based on sex.”  The landmark decision will provide a safety net for LGBTQ workers and individuals across the country, especially since only about half of states have protections for these individuals on the books. Notably, President Trump agreed to bend to the new ruling, stating that the court is very powerful, and the findings must be adhered to. 

California Law 

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) has protected the rights of Californian LGBTQ workers from employer discrimination for years. Gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual individuals may not be discriminated against when it comes to job applications and interviews, hiring, compensation, promotions, firing, working conditions, and opportunities in the workplace. In the event discrimination does occur, courts may rule that companies may be on the hook to address a number of issues, including: 

  • Past and future earnings;
  • Attorney’s fees;
  • Emotional distress;
  • Punitive damages;
  • Changes in company policies;
  • Training to address discrimination issues.

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Can I Be Fired Because Of My Sexual Orientation?

Sexual Orientation Discrimination, Sexual OrientationThere is currently no federal law that prohibits private employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Because of this, many people assume that it is no recourse for employees who experience this type of discrimination. This is not always the case, though. There are many jurisdictions – including the state of California – that have workplace anti-discrimination laws that extend to sexual orientation.

California’s anti-discrimination laws are among the broadest in the country. The California Fair Housing and Employment ACT (FEHA) prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. (The statute also prohibits discrimination based on race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, age, or military and veteran status.)

An employee who believes that he or she has been the victim of one of the above forms of discrimination can file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing up to one year after the alleged act of discrimination took place. The employee will only receive a Notice of Right to Sue after the claim has been pursued within the Department. Prior to receiving this notice, the employee does not have the right to file a private lawsuit.

What Employers Should Know About Sexual Orientation Discrimination

California’s anti-discrimination statutes go further than simply preventing employers from firing an employee based on his or her sexual orientation. It is also illegal to:

  • Refuse to hire a potential employee because of his or her sexual orientation
  • Refuse to promote an employee because of his or her sexual orientation
  • Create a hostile work environment for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender) employees
  • Deny employees benefits or privileges based on sexual orientation

When it comes to any type of anti-discrimination laws, there are some employers who believe that they can get away with discrimination by simply giving fake reasons for their actions. Let’s say, for example, there’s an employer who owns a large company in California. One day, he finds out that one of his employees is a lesbian. The employer isn’t happy about this, and he’d like to fire her, but he knows it’s illegal to fire an employee based on her sexual orientation. So instead, he waits for her to make a mistake. A few days later, the employee shows up to work ten minutes late, and the employer fires her – and tells her it’s because of her lateness.

The employer might think that he has nothing to worry about. After all, there’s no law against firing employees for being late to work. But the employer’s actions would still be a violation of California law, because the lateness was just a pretext for an illegal form of discrimination. If the employee files a complaint, and she is able demonstrate that her sexual orientation was most likely the real reason she was fired, she could recover damages.

Victims of Workplace Sexual Orientation Discrimination

If you suspect that your employer has discriminated against you on account of your sexual orientation, you may wish to seek the advice of a lawyer. If you want to know more about your rights and your options, you can contact an employment and labor law attorney at Beck Law P.C. today, and schedule a consultation.


The information on this website should not be considered to be legal advice, nor construed to be the formation of any manner of attorney client relationship. Prior to taking any form of legal action, please consult with an attorney experienced in the appropriate area of law germane to your situation. Case results and testimonials presented on or any of its related websites are germane to the facts present for each individual case and is not a promise of similar outcomes for any other cases. This website is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the State of California.