Sexual Orientation Discrimination and the EEOC
New York City Lawyers Protecting the Rights of Employees
When you go to work, you probably hope to be judged on your skills and performance, rather than your sexual orientation. You should not be treated differently from your work colleagues because you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or asexual. Sexual orientation discrimination is prohibited in New York City workplaces under federal, state, and local laws. This type of discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee unfavorably because of his or her sexual orientation. If you are hoping to file a charge of sexual orientation discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you may want to know about the rules involving sexual orientation discrimination and the EEOC. You should consult the experienced New York City sexual orientation discrimination lawyers at Phillips & Associates.
Sexual Orientation Discrimination and the EEOC
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on an employee’s sex, among other characteristics. Title VII is enforced by the EEOC. It applies to employers with at least 15 employees. In the past, EEOC guidance has stated that sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination and therefore is prohibited under Title VII. The EEOC has updated its guidance following a Supreme Court ruling on sexual orientation discrimination.
The Recent Supreme Court Ruling
In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia that terminating a worker because of their sexual orientation or transgender status violates Title VII. The Court looked at the plain text of Title VII to reason that you cannot discriminate based on homosexuality without also discriminating based on sex. For example, when a company terminates a worker because she is a woman married to a woman, but would not terminate a man married to a woman in the same situation, the employer is making a decision based on the employee’s sex. The Bostock decision did not look at other matters under Title VII, such as dress codes. It also did not look at Title VII exemptions for religious employers or other religious liberty concerns under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
What Counts as Sexual Orientation Discrimination?
Sexual orientation discrimination occurs if an employee faces a negative employment action, denial of benefits, or harassment due to his or her sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of someone with whom he or she is close. Negative employment actions can include termination, failure to hire, disparate pay, failure to promote, and demotion. For example, if you were outed at work, and your boss demoted you to a position that paid less well and was not customer-facing because you are gay, you may be able to recover damages for sexual orientation discrimination. For another example, if you mentioned that you are bisexual in a job interview after being assured that you would get the job, and then you were not hired because of your comment, you may be able to recover damages for sexual orientation discrimination.
Sexual orientation harassment is a form of discrimination. It occurs when harassing conduct based on sexual orientation is either pervasive or severe enough that a hostile, abusive, or offensive work environment is generated. For example, if your coworkers called you slurs and sent you graphics and memes that included derogatory remarks about your sexual orientation, you may have a claim for sexual orientation harassment.
Filing a Charge with the EEOC
Before filing a Title VII lawsuit for sexual orientation discrimination in federal court, you will need to file a charge with the EEOC. A charge is a signed statement alleging that your employer engaged in employment discrimination and asking the EEOC to take remedial action.
You must meet strict time deadlines when filing the charge with the EEOC; deadlines are based on when the discrimination occurred. When a state or local agency enforces a state or local law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination, you have 300 calendar days from the discriminatory act to file a charge of sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII.
Damages under Title VII are capped based on the size of your employer. New York also has state and local laws prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination.
Retain a Sexual Orientation Discrimination Lawyer in New York City
Sexual orientation discrimination can have both economic and emotional effects on employees in New York City and elsewhere. If you think that your employer discriminated against you because of your sexual orientation, it is important to seek out legal counsel. An attorney can determine your next steps related to sexual orientation discrimination and the EEOC. The attorneys at Phillips & Associates represent people in New York City, Westchester County, Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Call us at (866) 229-9441 or complete our online form.
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