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How to recognize sexual orientation based discrimination at work

Like many other forms of discrimination, discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal under California and federal law. The first step to preventing discrimination at work is understanding your rights.

What is sexual orientation discrimination?

When an employee is treated differently by an employer or coworker solely because of his or her perceived sexual orientation, whether the victim is gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual or heterosexual. Different treatment happens when the employee is treated differently in the terms, privileges or conditions of employment, such as pay, duties, training, promotions, write-ups or termination. Harassment is also a form of discrimination.

What laws protect against sexual orientation discrimination in California?

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits discrimination and harassment due to sexual orientation in the workplace. The FEHA also makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for protesting illegal discrimination related to sexual orientation discrimination.

Those suffering from gender identity discrimination at work are also protected. You might ask, what is the difference between sexual orientation discrimination and gender identity discrimination? An individual's sexual orientation only refers to whether he or she is homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, etc., but one's gender identity refers to a person's own self-identification as a man or woman or male or female, regardless of his or her anatomical sex at birth. Both types of discrimination are illegal under the FEHA.

What are some examples of sexual orientation discrimination?

(1) termination of an employee due to his or her real or perceived sexual orientation; (2) harassing or retaliating against an employee for filing a sexual orientation discrimination complaint, or helping another employee file a complaint; (3) issuing poor performance reviews due to an employee's real or perceived sexual orientation; (4) denying an employee a promotion, raise or benefits due to his or her real or perceived sexual orientation.

It is important to consult with a lawyer specializing in employment law if you believe you have been a victim of workplace discrimination due to your sexual orientation or gender identity.

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