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Creating a Safe Space: Addressing Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Discrimination in California’s Workforce

Addressing Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Sexual Orientation Discrimination in California’s Workforce

Creating a Safe Space

What Employees Need to Know about Gender Identity and Gender Expression and Sexual Orientation Discrimination

lesbian couple with LGBTQIA+ symbol fighting identity discrimination, and sexual orientation discrimination.

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Emily was a diligent and talented young woman. She was passionate about her work and had recently landed a coveted position at a prestigious company. With her skills and dedication, she had high hopes for a promising career ahead.

However, Emily soon found herself embroiled in an unexpected battle against discrimination. She had always been open about her sexual orientation as a lesbian, believing that her personal life had no bearing on her professional capabilities. Unfortunately, not everyone shared her enlightened perspective.

One day, during a routine team meeting, Emily’s supervisor, Mr. Thompson, made a disparaging comment about LGBTQIA+ individuals. The room fell silent as Emily’s heart sank.

Determined to stand up for herself and others who may face similar discrimination, Emily gathered her courage and requested a meeting with the Human Resources department. She expressed her concerns about the comment made by Mr. Thompson and shared her experiences of feeling marginalized and undervalued because of her sexual orientation.

The HR team assured her that the Company had a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination of any kind, including sexual orientation. They promised to thoroughly investigate the matter and take appropriate action.

True to their word, the HR team launched an internal investigation, interviewing employees and collecting evidence. In the meantime, Emily’s story reached the ears of her colleagues, many of whom were shocked and saddened by the discrimination she had faced. They rallied around her, forming a supportive network of allies.

As the investigation progressed, the Company’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity became more evident. They organized mandatory sensitivity training sessions for all employees, emphasizing the importance of respecting one another, regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity or any other personal characteristic.

Finally, after weeks of thorough investigation, the HR team concluded their findings. They discovered a pattern of discriminatory behavior exhibited by Mr. Thompson, extending beyond the incident involving Emily. The Company took swift action, and reaffirmed its dedication to creating an inclusive work environment, where diversity was celebrated and discrimination would not be tolerated.

Sexual Orientation Vs. Gender Identity Vs. Gender Expression

Exploring Identity and Diversity

Sexual orientation encompasses an individual’s profound and multifaceted experiences of physical, romantic, and emotional attraction towards individuals of the same and/or opposite gender. It is a deeply personal aspect of identity and can be categorized into various orientations, such as heterosexual (straight), lesbian, gay, and bisexual.

On the other hand, gender identity refers to an individual’s intrinsic perception of their own gender. It may or may not align with the sex assigned to them at birth, and it can be an internal experience that may or may not be externally visible to others. Gender identity is a deeply personal and diverse aspect of human existence, reflecting the complex interplay of one’s self-perception and societal understanding of gender.

Gender expression refers to the external manifestation of an individual’s gender identity through their behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice, and other outward characteristics. It encompasses the ways in which individuals present their gender to the world and express their sense of self within societal norms and expectations. Gender expression can vary greatly and may align with traditional gender norms or defy them, allowing individuals to authentically express their gender identity in a manner that feels true to them.

What is Gender Expression, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Discrimination?

If an employer treats an employee or job applicant less favorably because of their sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity, this is employment discrimination. This type of discrimination may also exist where an employer’s seemingly fair policies or procedures have a significant negative impact on employees or job applicants because of their sexual orientation, gender expression, and/or gender identity.

Sexual orientation discrimination, gender identity discrimination, and gender expression discrimination collectively encompass any form of discriminatory treatment directed towards individuals based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. These types of discrimination can manifest in various detrimental ways, including harassment, exclusion from job opportunities, or even termination of employment. Sadly, workplace discrimination of this nature persists in many workplaces, including those in California. Such discrimination harms the individual employee and creates a toxic work environment for everyone.

California Legal Protection for Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Legal Protections for LGBTQ+ Employees in California

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. This means that employers in California are prohibited from making employment decisions based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The law applies to all employers, regardless of size, and applies to all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, and pay.

Additionally, the state has also adopted a number of other laws and regulations to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ employees. For example, California law also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who are undergoing gender transition, such as allowing the use of a preferred name or restroom.

It is important to note that cities and municipalities in California have enacted their own non-discrimination laws and policies, surpassing the inclusivity of state laws. A prime example is San Francisco, where a city ordinance explicitly prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and expression. Moreover, this ordinance extends its protection to housing, ensuring equal rights and opportunities for all individuals. Furthermore, local regulations prohibit the City from inquiring about its employees’ sexual orientation or any other aspects related to their sexuality.

California stands proud as a jurisdiction that prioritizes the rights and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community, transgender, gender-nonconforming, gender-nonbinary, and gender-transitioning employees. The state’s comprehensive legal framework serves as a shield against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Employers have a vital role in upholding these laws, creating a workplace that is not only safe but also inclusive for every employee.

Discrimination's Impact and Consequences on LGBTQ+ Employees and the Workplace as a Whole

Importance of Addressing the Issue

Addressing discrimination based on sexual orientation is crucial, not just from a legal standpoint but also from an ethical perspective. Creating a discrimination-free workplace is essential for the well-being of all employees and for fostering a positive work environment. California has specific legal protections in place for LGBTQ+ employees, and employers have a responsibility to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and with respect. By addressing and preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation, we can promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace and create an equitable environment for all employees.

Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation: Definition, Impact, and Examples

Sexual orientation discrimination is an insidious form of prejudice that involves treating individuals unfairly based on their sexual orientation, encompassing orientations such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and heterosexual. It is a distressing reality that many individuals face in various aspects of their lives, including the workplace. This discriminatory behavior can manifest itself in numerous ways, with some common examples being:

    • Denial of Employment or Promotion Opportunities: Discrimination based on sexual orientation can involve an employer refusing to hire or promote an individual solely because of their sexual orientation. Such biased decision-making deprives individuals of equal opportunities to thrive professionally, hindering their career growth and perpetuating inequality within the workplace.

    • Harassment or Bullying: Sexual orientation discrimination often takes the form of harassment or bullying, creating a hostile work environment for those targeted. This can include verbal abuse, offensive jokes or comments, derogatory remarks, or the spreading of rumors about an individual’s sexual orientation. Such mistreatment not only undermines an individual’s sense of self-worth but also hampers their ability to perform their job effectively.

    • Termination of Employment: In some cases, discrimination based on sexual orientation leads to the unjust termination of an individual’s employment. When employers choose to dismiss employees solely because of their sexual orientation, it not only violates their rights but also perpetuates a harmful cycle of discrimination and prejudice.

Recognizing the urgency to combat sexual orientation discrimination, society must acknowledge that every individual deserves equitable treatment, unwavering respect, and equal opportunities, regardless of their sexual orientation. To do this, substantial efforts must be made to cultivate workplaces that wholeheartedly embrace diversity, cultivate inclusive policies, and foster a culture of acceptance. By taking these proactive efforts, we can build a culture that recognizes individuals for their unique skills, abilities, and accomplishments, rather than their sexual orientation.

What are my rights?

All employees, applicants, and contractors must be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of gender, gender identity, and gender expression. You have the right to work in an environment free of discrimination, including harassment, based on your sexual orientation, gender expression and/or gender identity. You cannot be harassed, demoted, fired, paid less, refused employment, or otherwise treated unfairly because of your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

All employees, applicants, and contractors must be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of gender, gender identity, and gender expression.

  • Employers cannot ask employees or job applicants for any information or identification that they don’t request from all other employees or applicants. This includes medical information related to your gender identity. Your privacy and personal information should be respected equally.
  • Restroom access should align with your gender identity. Employers cannot deny you the ability to use restrooms consistent with your gender identity. Your comfort and dignity are important.
  • Lawfully married same-sex spouses should receive the same benefits as opposite-sex spouses. Employers cannot deny them equal benefits. Equality and fairness should be upheld for all legally married couples.
  • Same-sex partners in civil unions or domestic partnerships should receive the same benefits as heterosexual partners in similar relationships. Discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression should not hinder access to benefits.

What is Workplace Discrimination in California?

Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, employers and job applicants are protected from workplace discrimination. Discrimination includes any unfavorable or unduly harsh treatment due to one’s belonging to the protected class. This includes practices such as recruitment, evaluation, salary, job assignments, promotions, benefits, training, layoff, or termination.

What Should You Do If You are a Victim of Workplace Discrimination?

If you believe you have been discriminated against in your workplace, it’s important to take immediate action. It is advised to seek legal advice to get a clear understanding of your rights and to ensure that necessary evidence can be obtained. If employment discrimination is found to be valid, there are several remedies available to seek compensation.

Can You Get Fired for Filing a Discrimination Claim?

Your employer is not allowed to retaliate or fire you if they are found guilty of workplace discrimination. Filing a discrimination claim is a protected activity under California Law and if you are disciplined, demoted, or terminated without proper reasons, you may be able to recover monetary damages.

What Should California Employees Do if They Believe They Have Been Discriminated Against?

If an employee in California believes they have been discriminated against due to their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression, or any of the protected classes (Race, color, Ancestry, national origin, Religion, creed, Age – 40 and over, Disability, mental and physical, Sex, gender, Medical condition, Pregnancy, Genetic information, Marital status, Military or veteran status), they should report it to their employer. If the employer does not take action to address the complaint, the employee can file a complaint with The Civil Rights Department (CRD). The CRD will investigate the complaint and take action if they find that the employer has violated the law.

Also, if an employee believes they have been discriminated against, they should seek legal advice from an experienced discrimination attorney.

Can you Sue for Sexual Discrimination California?

Yes, in some cases you can sue your employer if you were the victim of harassment or discrimination because of your sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression discrimination. You can bring a discrimination claim in federal or state court (it depends on several factors) under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). To do so, you must usually need some kind of proof or evidence that they were treated differently because of their religion. Maybe you complain about it in an email sent to Human Resources or talked about it with your supervisor. In some cases, an experienced discrimination attorney can gather evidence from job performance evaluations, a change in salary or position, or other sources.

Employment Discrimination Lawyer in Southern California

If you have a question about workplace discrimination and your rights, please contact the attorneys at Cielo & Dei Voluntas Law Firm for a free and confidential intake process. Our skilled employment law attorneys may be able to help you with your situation.

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