For all the progress our country has made in making the workplace safe for everyone, LGBT discrimination remains a severe and pervasive problem. Protection against harassment based on sexual orientation is almost nonexistent in the United States. Of approximately 20,000 cities and counties in the United States, just 190 have given victims of this discrimination the tools to fight back.
Bias and hatred toward gays, lesbians and other gender-identity variations remains strong. In the near-total absence of legal protections, victims of discriminatory employment practices – in hiring, promotion, salary, discipline and termination decisions – remain at risk. There are ways to get around this in some cases – such as by developing a claim more along traditional gender discrimination theories – but sometimes that can’t be done. I’ve done it successfully on behalf of a transgender client whose employer didn’t want customers to see her, and I’m currently suing Federal Express on behalf of a lesbian client who alleged merciless harassment by male coworkers. She alleges that after she reported it, the company indeed began an investigation, but it used the “investigation” against her and, after collecting bogus statements from the very people she reported, the company fired her. At one point, she even called the police for help, believing the company’s policies had completely failed to protect her.
Ordinances barring LGBT/gender-identity discrimination generally do nothing more than add it as a protected class. Rumors that these laws open the door to all kinds of unexpected workplace rights are just false. Here’s a blurb from Leon County, Florida’s ordinance, which is similar to most:
Sec. 9-27. Unlawful employment practices. (a) It shall be a discriminatory practice for an employer to: (1) Fail or refuse to hire, discharge, promote, or otherwise discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation or the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of age, race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, familial status, sex, gender, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation; or (2) Limit, segregate, or classify an employee in a way which would deprive or tend to deprive an individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect the status of an employee because of age, race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, familial status, sex, gender, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation.
That’s it. These laws can help end devastating mistreatment and harassment in the workplace. But getting them passed is still extremely difficult. Indeed, efforts to repeal laws even after they’re in place have had dismaying success. Click here for more on that.
Here’s the complete list, as of today, of cities and counties in Florida (with a total of 14) and Georgia (with just one, in Atlanta) that have LGBT/gender-identity anti-discrimination laws:
Gainesville, City of
Gulfport, City of
Key West, City of
Lake Worth, City of
Miami Beach, City of
Palm Beach County
Tampa, City of
West Palm Beach, City of
Atlanta, City of
If you’ve been the victim of LGBT/gender-identity discrimination, call an employee rights lawyer. An attorney experienced in this area can guide you on combating discrimination on the job, and help you formulate a plan, both personal and legal, for fighting back. Never tolerate it. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” are words to live by.