Guest post by Rachel Gaffney of www.employmentlawshelp.org. This post contains affiliate links. The BRC is receiving no compensation for this post. A local, free resource that you can also utilize if you're experiencing workplace discrimination is Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid.
LGBTQ+ employees may face discrimination, but you can fight back if you are working in a hostile environment or if you are discriminated against by coworkers. LGBTQ+ workers, like all employees, have the right to work without being harassed, bullied, or discriminated against by an employer. The Supreme Court has ruled that the workplace protections that are guaranteed by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also apply to LGBTQ+ workers. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of their race, color, gender, sex, orientation, religion, or country of birth. If you have experienced discrimination or harassment at work because of your LGBTQ+ status you have the right to file a complaint against your employer with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The EEOC maintains a work share agreement with state labor authorities in 44 states. If you work in one of those 44 states and you file a complaint against your employer with the EEOC the EEOC will automatically send a copy of your complaint to the state labor authorities. Your employer will face a state investigation as well as Federal one.
Examples of Workplace Discrimination
Discrimination at work is sometimes disguised. You may face gaslighting from bosses or colleagues who tell you that the harassment you’re experiencing is just a joke. But discrimination isn’t a joke. Common types of discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees include:
Derogatory comments or slurs
Demeaning comments, insults, “jokes”, or slurs about LGBTQ+ employees are likely discrimination. They’re never acceptable in the workplace.
Asking you what your gender is
Employers and colleagues are not allowed to question your gender identity or your orientation. You don’t have to answer any questions about your status or educate the people you work with about orientation or identity.
Not Being Promoted
If you’re not given a promotion that you’ve earned but someone who has fewer qualifications or less time at the company is given a promotion instead of you that’s discrimination.
Misgendering you on purpose
This happens to trans people frequently. Once you have made your gender and pronouns clear your colleagues and employers are not allowed to misgender you or deliberately use offensive terms. They also cannot call you by your dead name if it’s no longer your legal name.
Dress code restrictions
Employers can’t enforce gender stereotypes through use of a dress code. Dress codes are often full of microaggressions against LGBTQ+ people and people of color.
Filing A Workplace Discrimination Claim
If you’re experiencing discrimination at work, make sure that you’re writing down every incident of harassment or discrimination that occurs. Keep a log of what happens, when, and who was involved. Take the list to your boss and to HR. If they don’t work with you to stop the harassment or discrimination that you’re experiencing, go to the EEOC’s website and file a complaint.
You can also file a complaint with your state. In Texas, you can file a claim with the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division. Your complaint can be filed online, sent in the mail or email as well can be filed in person. You cannot file your claim over the phone though.
Penalties For Discrimination
Employers can get into serious trouble for Civil Rights Act violations. Your employer could have to pay $10,000 fines for every violation and face other penalties as well. If you were denied a promotion or advancement, you could receive a lump sum of money or a promotion. You also could receive a lump sum of money for pain and suffering and other damages.