Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Who You Are Should Not Cause Harassment or Discrimination

The percentage of American adults identifying as LGBTQ has more than doubled over the past decade, and that time period has seen a rapid advancement in legal protections for that population. Landmark court decisions such as Bostock v. Clayton County have extended the Civil Rights Act's prohibition on sex discrimination to cover workers who are discriminated against due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Therefore, harassment or discrimination that arises from an employee's sexual orientation, transgender status, or personal presentation is now clearly prohibited under federal law. Unlike other aspects of workplace discrimination law, the current status of legal protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination can vary widely between federal and state law, as well as between different states. Unfortunately, Texas has been slower to adopt legal protections in these areas, but some local governments have. Travis County, as well as several other Texas counties, explicitly prohibits discrimination against workers due to their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Common Characteristics of Such Harassment

Gay and transgender workers regularly face discrimination in the workplace, as employers are routinely unwilling to accommodate or acknowledge their identities. They may have to combat stereotypes about their sexuality and allegations that they are bad for the company's image or culture. However, the Bostock decision protects these employees against adverse action in the workplace. If a company fires an employee after they come out as transgender or regularly promotes less qualified straight employees over qualified gay employees, they have violated the Civil Rights Act.

Employees who do not conform to their coworkers' expectations of gender or sexuality also often face discrimination. A man working in construction may be teased by his coworkers for being too effeminate, whereas a woman working in an office may face disapproval for not dressing or acting femininely enough. These stereotypes cannot be the basis of any employment decisions, such as whether or not to hire or promote an employee. Employers who do these things run the risk of being found guilty of discrimination under federal law.

It is also possible to bring a claim for sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination that arises from the creation of a hostile environment in the workplace. As with other types of discrimination, hostile environment claims for sexual orientation or gender identity require that harassment in the workplace be severe or pervasive enough to affect the terms and conditions of employment. Common examples of such harassment include teasing and verbal abuse from coworkers, pressure to conform to traditional standards of gender and sexuality, and misgendering of transgender individuals. If you have experienced any of these in the workplace, your rights under federal law may have been violated, and you should consult with one of our Austin workplace discrimination lawyers.

When Should You File a Claim?

In general, you have anywhere from 180 days (under state law) to 300 days (under federal law) to file a claim about discrimination. These deadlines can be quick, so if you are a victim of such discrimination, it's important that you talk to an attorney as soon as possible. If you think you've been discriminated against because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, or if you think you have a case, please contact us today. Filing claims with the EEOC can be complicated, and many of the legal issues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity are still uncertain. Our Austin workplace discrimination lawyers can help enforce your rights in front of the EEOC, and it is important to have as much expertise as possible on your side. You can get in touch with us by filling out our contact form or calling our office at (512) 271-5527.

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