It is an unfortunate reality that discrimination is rampant in workplaces. Many employers have discriminatory employment practices, creating a hostile environment for applicants and employees because of their race, age, disability and other specific characteristics.
One common form of discrimination is unjust treatment due to someone’s sexual orientation, specifically being part of the LGBTQ+ community. Fortunately, the law protects applicants and employees discriminated against due to their sexual orientation.
But what if the individual discriminated against is not actually a part of the LGBTQ+ community and is simply perceived as such? Does the law still protect them?
No difference between actual and perceived sexual orientation
Federal and state laws prohibit harassment and discrimination against a person due to their sexual orientation. However, this protection does not require the victim to actually be of that sexual orientation. What the law prohibits is workplace bias against sexual minorities, regardless of any incorrect assumption. Hence, it does not matter if the victim of sexual orientation discrimination does not actually identify themself as a member of that sexual minority.
Responses and remedies
Being a target of discrimination creates an emotional toll upon any person. Workplaces should be a safe space. Unfortunately, not all employers provide that safe environment.
Whether you are a victim of sexual orientation discrimination during the hiring process or your employment, collecting the necessary evidence of unfair treatment and exploring remedies to protect your rights is crucial. In some cases, bringing the situation to the company’s HR department resolves the issue. However, other cases may require escalating the matter to your local civil rights agencies or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).