State and federal legislation prohibits any form of workplace discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual identity or sexual preference. If you identify as LGBTQ+, and have experienced any form of discrimination or harassment against you because of your status as a LGBTQ+ individual at work then you have the right to file a complaint with a state or federal anti discrimination body. Your employer cannot retaliate against you if you decide to take your complaint to a government anti discrimination agency for investigation or file a lawsuit against your employer.
You may have your complaint resolved or receive financial compensation if your complaint of a breach of anti discrimination legislation is upheld.
How LGBTQ+ Workers Face Discrimination in the Workplace
LGBTQ+ employees may face various forms of discrimination or harassment while at work. The acts against them may be from a co-worker, a supervisor, manager or the employer. Harassment because of one’s sexual or gender identity is commonplace and may be in the form of taunts, insults, physical or sexual threats or assault. Intimidation may be verbal, or in the form of written comments made through a social media forum, by text messaging, email, notes or letters.
Direct or indirect acts of discrimination experienced by LGBTQ+ workers may include any one or a combination of the following:
- Refusal to employ you despite your suitability for a job
- Refusal to promote you or give you overtime when available
- Underpaying or not paying you
- Terminating your employment because of your identification as LGBTQ+
Steps When Filing a Claim for Discrimination as a LGBTQ+ Employee
Before taking any action after experiencing discrimination or harassment, ensure you have proof, preferably documentary proof, or an audio recording of comments, insults, phone calls etc. Keep a note of dates, times, what happened, who was involved, whether there were credible witnesses, etc.
If you feel able to do so, file a letter of complaint with your supervisor, HR department or employer depending on your workplace, explaining what you have experienced. Keep a copy of correspondence and any response you obtain.
If your employer does not respond or fails to resolve your complaint, the next step is to file a complaint with either your state anti discrimination agency or department such as a Human Rights Commission, or the federal equivalent, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will investigate complaints of discrimination within workplaces of 15 or more employees. The state of Pennsylvania with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission will also cooperate with the EEOC on a work-share arrangement.
These agencies have a time limit within which you need to file your complaint, which could be 180 to 365 days from the date of the act of discrimination.
If investigators cannot resolve your complaint, then you will normally be given permission to take further legal action of your own. This means filing a lawsuit against your employer based on a breach of anti discrimination laws, such as the federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Compensation Possible if a LGBTQ+ Discrimination Claim is Upheld
You may receive financial compensation if your discrimination claim is upheld. You may also have your job reinstated or discrimination reversed. Penalties against your employer in the form of fines or even more serious charges (i.e. if there was a crime involved) may be imposed by the court.
Back pay could be paid out, as well as compensation for emotional or psychological distress caused by the acts of discrimination against you. In more serious cases where you have been the victim of particularly malicious behavior or acts, you may be awarded punitive damages.
This post was contributed by Employment Law Help
About Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition
At Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition, we are committed to building a supportive and enriching community abundant in opportunities for LGBTQIA+ individuals and those with a stake in creating a more inclusive Lancaster County. For more information, visit lgbtlancaster.org