California law is extremely protective of LGBT rights. In fact, California’s LGBT discrimination laws offer more protection to employees than federal laws. Broad protections are available to combat discrimination based on “sexual orientation”, which include homosexual, bisexual, transgender, and heterosexual employees. Federal employees stationed in California are protected by federal LGBT discrimination laws.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is quite common in California. LGBT employment discrimination law applies when an employee suffers an “adverse employment action” based on sexual orientation or gender identity. An adverse employment action is an action that substantially and adversely affects the conditions of employment, such as:
- Failure to hire
- Withdrawing a job offer
- Passing over an LGBT employee for promotion in favor of someone who is less qualified
- Discrimination in pay or benefits
- Discrimination based on perception or assumption (discrimination based on a perceived sexual orientation, even if that perception is inaccurate)
- Being disciplined for using the “wrong” restroom
- Being terminated for making a gender transition
- Being excluded from business lunches, management retreats or similar activities
There protections kick in only when it is proven that the adverse employment action was actually motivated by the employee’s LGBT status. It is the responsibility of the employee to prove, for example, his termination was motivated by discrimination against his LGBT status (sexual orientation or gender identity).
As stated above, LGBT workplace discrimination occurs when you suffer adverse action because of your sexual orientation or gender identity. Workplace harassment, by contrast, is abusive treatment (by superiors, peers or subordinates) due to your sexual orientation or gender identity. You can win a harassment lawsuit just as you can win a discrimination lawsuit.
Examples of harassment in the workplace
- Being subjected to a superior’s efforts to “turn you straight”
- Offensive comments
- Unwanted touching
- Offensive jokes
- Constant irrelevant references to an employee’s sexual orientation of identity
- Sexual orientation or gender identity stereotyping
Below are some of the major state and federal laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
- The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) prevents discrimination and harassment against LGBT people in the workplace.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers discrimination and harassment in housing and at the workplace, including graduate students at a university.
- Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination and harassment against university students.
- The California Department of Managed Healthcare (the “CDMH”) Regulations prevent health insurance companies from discriminating against LGBT people and it requires insurance companies to cover gender transition-related health care expenses for those who hold transgender policies.
- The SB 1146 religious exemption notification requirement requires schools with religious exemptions from Title IX to notify students of the religious exemption prior to enrollment.
- The SB 703 government contracting requirement prohibits the California state government from entering into contracts worth more than $100,00 with companies that do not offer transgender health care benefits.
About Corbett J. Williams
Corbett H. Williams is an experienced lawyer who represents California employees in a wide range of matters including wrongful termination, sexual harassment, retaliation, whistleblower, class action, and wage & hour cases. He also has substantial experience representing business clients in consumer class action, trade secret, real estate, intellectual property and contract matters, and he has obtained multiple published opinions by the California Court District of Appeal and the Ninth Circuit.