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Sexual Orientation Workplace Discrimination: What You Should Know

Ideally, all workers would be able to perform their job duties in peace, without being harassed, teased, or called names by their colleagues and supervisors. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many employees face discrimination in the workplace for various reasons. Some are treated unfairly due to their race, age, gender, marital status, religion, or disability. Many are even harassed because of their sexual orientation.

Sexual orientation discrimination occurs when a person is treated differently due to their sexual orientation, whether it be homosexual, bisexual, asexual, or pansexual. Transgendered people and even straight people may be teased about their sexuality. Discrimination can involve harassment, such as gestures, touching, jokes, leering, sexual pictures or comments, and requests for dates or sexual favors. It can also involve different treatment, such as being fired, demoted, passed over for a promotion, or treated negatively by co-workers or supervisors.

21 states and D.C. prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. One state—Wisconsin—prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation only.

Seven states—Montana, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania—

prohibit discrimination against public employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Four states—North Carolina, Alaska, Arizona and Missouri—prohibit discrimination against public employees based on sexual orientation only.

Sexual orientation and gender identity can be connected, but they are not the same. Gender identity is based on how someone identifies themselves. They can be male, female or non-binary, meaning they fall somewhere within the spectrum of male and female, but do not identify as one or the other. Some are gender-fluid, which means they may identify as a woman sometimes, and a man at other times. It can vary.

Sexual orientation, on the other hand, refers to the sex of the people to whom you are attracted. It is defined by the classification of people with whom you want to have romantic relationships. You can be attracted to men, women, neither, or both.

The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act

The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in employment, education, housing, credit, public accommodations, and civil rights. Under SONDA, which became effective in 2003, sexual orientation is defined as heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or asexuality. SONDA is recognized in New York only. It is not a federal law.

 If you have been the victim of sexual orientation discrimination, SONDA allows you to either:

  • File a charge with the New York State Division of Human Rights or a local human rights agency within one year of the most recent act of discrimination; or
  • File a complaint in State court within three years of the most recent act of discrimination.

Contact a New York Discrimination Lawyer

New York, for the most part, is quite progressive when it comes to acceptance and protection of the LGBTQ community. Most employers allow employees to be themselves and express their identity without fear of repercussions. However, not all companies are like this. Some are very religious or strict in their beliefs and do not approve of those people whose lifestyles differ from their own.

If you feel you have been discriminated against because you are gay, lesbian, or transgender, the attorneys at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. can investigate your case. Do not be ashamed to tell us your story. We want to help you fight for your rights. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at (347) 464-8694.

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