In California, sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace occurs when an employee is subjected to negative employment action, harassment, or denial of certain benefits because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, or the sexual orientation of someone they are close to. It can also look like favoritism towards employees with differing sexual preferences purely based on the perceived sexual orientation. Unfortunately, many workers across California continue face obstacles at work related to being gay, bisexual, and heterosexual. At our firm, most of our cases regarding sexual issues involve workplace sexual harassment where the employer is on notice and fails to take corrective action. If this is your story, know that our legal team and the law are on your side.

California Law Prohibits Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), employers are prohibited from discriminating against an individual because of their sexual orientation (gay, bisexual, or heterosexual), whether their sexual orientation is perceived or actual. Put simply, FEHA makes it illegal for your employer to fire, fail to hire, or discriminate against you in any way because of your sexual orientation.

FEHA also prohibits sexual-orientation-based “harassment.” Harassment is a form of discrimination that occurs when a boss, supervisor, or co-worker subjects you to hostile, offensive or intimidating behavior because of your sexual orientation and you can read more on the types of workplace harassment here.

Federal Law and Sexual Orientation

In the recent landmark Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the United States Supreme Court held that an employer who terminates an employee for being homosexual or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The decision focused on the interpretation of the term “sex” as used in Title VII. Discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status necessarily requires an employer to intentionally treat individual employees different because of their sex. Thus, an employer who intentionally penalizes an employee for being homosexual or transgender also violates Title VII. 

Gender Identity and Workplace Harassment

Under FEHA, it is also illegal for an employer with 5 or more employees to fire, fail to hire, or discriminate in any way against employees who are or are perceived to be transgender or gender non-conforming. Harassment occurs when a supervisor, co-worker, or non-employee in your workplace subjects you to hostile, offensive, or intimidating behavior because of your gender identity or gender expression.

For example, a person who was born a man but who know identifies as a woman should be treated as a woman at his workplace.  If your employer does not make accommodations for you, you may have a legal claim.

Next Steps

State and federal law holds employers accountable for workplace discrimination based on gender and or gender identity. If you have been discriminated against by your California employer, contact the experienced attorneys at Webb Law Group today.