Brown Law Office 972-355-0092
Brown Law Office 972-355-0092
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Employer Law FAQ

What Laws Protect Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination?

Private employers seeking to learn more about their obligations to prevent discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation should look to the law of their specific jurisdictions. There are few federal legal protections against this type of employment discrimination.

Federal Laws

  • Title VII, the main federal antidiscrimination law, only protects against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex and religion. While legal arguments have been made that the protections against sex discrimination should include sexual orientation, it has been well-settled that it does not. With regards to sex discrimination, Title VII only applies to discrimination based on gender, and not sex-related behavior.
  • The courts have found that homosexuals can bring claims for sexual harassment under Title VII against employers in instances when a supervisor or co-worker of the same sex harasses them in the workplace. However, if the individual accused of the harassment has been found to harass those of the same and opposite sex, then the claim for sexual harassment under Title VII will fail.
  • Attempts to include sexual orientation as a disability protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also have failed. The Act specifically excludes homosexuality, lesbianism, transsexualism and transgenderism as protected disabilities.

State Measures

  • Some states have amended their equal or fair employment statutes to include a prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The coverage of these statutes varies, from covering only state and local government employees to also including private employees. Other states, however, have decided to follow the federal example and continue define "sex discrimination" in the same fashion as Title VII.
  • In some states, the governors have issued executive orders that protect state government employees from sexual orientation discrimination.
  • Some cities have issued ordinancesbanning sexual orientation discrimination. The coverage of these ordinances varies, and may cover local and municipal employees as well as private employers who contract with the city. In some instances, these ordinances have served as the basis for finding a public policy exception to the at-will employment rule, thus allowing private employees to bring wrongful termination claims against employers who fire them because of their sexual orientation.

As many movements as there are to pass legislation at the state level to protect against sexual orientation discrimination, there are matching movements to repeal these actions. In this hot-button area of the law, it is important for employers to stay current on local legal developments and their corresponding obligations.

To learn more about the existence of these state law protections against sexual orientation discrimination, contact an experienced employment law attorney in your area.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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Betty L. Brown
Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization
in Labor and Employment Law
Fountain Park
1021 Long Prairie Road, Suite 402
Flower Mound, TX 75022
Phone: 972-355-0092
Fax: 972-899-9635
E-mail: betty@brownemploymentlaw.com