According to a Gallup poll in 2018, 4.5 percent of American adults identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Los Angeles is also home to a large population of LGBT members. According to another Gallup poll in conjunction with the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area has the country’s eighth-largest LGBT community.
Members of the LGBT community are employed in all industries in L.A., including the arts and entertainment, construction, service jobs, the legal industry, and just about anything else. In Los Angeles and throughout California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) protects workers against discrimination based on their sexual orientation. Here, we answer a few of the most common questions we receive at Sirmabekian Law Firm, like:
- What is Sexual Orientation Per California's Anti-Discrimination Laws?
- Are There Any Exceptions to California's Discrimination Law Based on Sexual Orientation?
- What Does Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation Look Like in Los Angeles CA?
- How Do You Prove a Claim Based on Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Los Angeles CA?
- What Compensation or Remedies are Available if I Was Discriminated Against Based on My Sexual Orientation?
- Who Should I Contact if I Have Been Discriminated Against in L.A. Based on My Sexual Orientation?
Being discriminated against in the workplace can be both indirect and direct. It can also be frustrating and scary. We know you likely have more questions if you believe you have been discriminated against at work based on your sexual orientation. Contact us at Sirmabekian Law Firm to schedule a free initial consultation. We will listen to your story and respond appropriately and compassionately.
California Gov. Code § 12926(s) defines sexual orientation as
heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality.
The Code also states at Cal. Gov. Code § 12940(a) that it is an unlawful employment practice
[f]or an employer, because of the … sexual orientation … of any person, to refuse to hire or employ the person or to refuse to select the person for a training program leading to employment, or to bar or to discharge the person from employment or from a training program leading to employment, or to discriminate against the person in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.
Therefore, an employer in Los Angeles cannot:
- refuse to hire you;
- refuse to promote you;
- refuse to train you;
- discharge or terminate your employment; or
- change, reduce, or otherwise discriminate against you in compensation or employment benefits, among other things,
based on whether you are gay, a lesbian, or bisexual. This anti-discrimination is true regardless of whether the employer was formed in California or was formed and is headquartered outside the country.
FEHA (and other laws), however, goes beyond the workplace and applies to healthcare providers, the education sector, public accommodations (e.g., hotels and restaurants), and housing authorities.
Employees employed by the federal government do not enjoy workplace protections against discrimination based on their sexual orientation. This is true even if the federal agency is physically located in California. The importance of this cannot be stressed enough because the federal government is one of the largest employers in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Examples of professional and other employment opportunities through the federal government in and around L.A. include:
- Border Patrol Agents through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency
- Store Clerks and Store Associates at the U.S. Department of Defense
- Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
- Food Service Workers at any federal agency
- Labor Investigators at the U.S. Department of Labor
- Transportation Security Officers through the Transportation Security Administration
- Correctional Officers through the U.S. Department of Justice
- Many others.
Other exceptions include some nonprofit and religious organizations that do not make a profit. Thus, a religious institution can deny you employment based on your sexual orientation. Likewise, a religious educational institution can deny your application based on your sexual orientation.
In addition to federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, the Los Angeles City Council, in 2019, approved a civil and human rights ordinance that prohibits discrimination and other forms of bigotry in Los Angeles and the workplace. The measure refers specifically to LGBTQ persons. This is a developing law, the remedies and enforcement of which have not yet be secured, and so if, in Los Angeles, you should speak to an attorney to make sure you have all options available to you with respect to the law.
Sexual orientation discrimination can materialize in different ways. Discrimination can be subtle or it can be loud and clear.
An employer, for example, may assume at your interview – based on appearances alone – that you are homosexual, and based on this assumption, the employer – though you are qualified – refuses to hire you. A landlord may see you holding hands with a person of the same sex and – for no apparent reason – charge you a higher rent upon the termination of your current lease.
On the other hand, a supervisor at your place of employment may make jokes about your sexual orientation repeatedly within a range you can clearly hear it. Or, a landlord may see you and your partner walk in with an application and outright tell you he does not rent units to gays and lesbians.
Common forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace often look like this:
- name-calling or slurs
- inappropriate comments or jokes
- baseless write-ups
- no promotions
- lower wages
- fewer shifts
- wrongful termination.
If you have received any of the above abuse – apart from wrongful termination – you should:
- Keep a journal of everything that has happened, including who, when where, how, and why; and
- Report it to Human Resources (or to a trusted supervisor).
If the abuse continues, then you may want to think about filing a complaint. You should also contact an employment law attorney in L.A. to make sure you are handling the situation effectively and in a manner that will safeguard your protection and ensure you will receive compensation if any is owed.
You should also keep in mind that, if you report the abuse either to Human Resources or to the appropriate agency, your employer may retaliate. Retaliation can come in many forms, like demotion or termination. Retaliation, along with discrimination based on sexual orientation, is illegal in California. If retaliation occurs, it is all the more important to seek guidance from an experienced sexual orientation discrimination attorney as soon as possible.
To bring a claim on discrimination in California, you must be able to show that:
- you are a member of whichever sexual orientation against which you are allegedly being discriminated;
- you were subjected to an adverse employment decision (e.g., demoted, terminated, discharged);
- you were qualified for the position (or the promotion); and
- you were replaced by a person who is not a member of your sexual orientation or other similar situation employees not a member of your sexual orientation were treated better than you.
Keep in mind that appearances also matter. An employer cannot discriminate against you even if you appear to be a member of a particular sexual orientation but are not. For example, if you are a heterosexual male but dress, speak, or otherwise appear to be homosexual even though you are not, the employer cannot discriminate against you and you can pursue a discrimination claim.
If your claim or a subsequent lawsuit is successful, you may be eligible for any of (but not limited to) the following compensation:
- back pay, which includes recovery of any lost wages or other benefits for a period of up to two years;
- front pay, which includes compensation for any anticipated future damages as a result of the discrimination in terms of benefits and wages;
- hiring, which means the employer could be forced to hire you;
- promotion; which means the employer could be ordered to give you the promotion you deserve;
- reinstatement, which means the court could order the employer to reinstate you into your old or similar position;
- attorney fees and costs, which include reasonable attorney fees and costs associated with the lawsuit.
In addition, the employer may have to implement policy changes and conduct training. Also, the employer may face fines imposed by the State of California for its discriminatory practices or policies.
If you believe you are a victim of sexual orientation discrimination in Los Angeles, contact Sirmabekian Law Firm, PC immediately. Our practice is dedicated to hard-working people of all socioeconomic, religious, ethnic, racial backgrounds who have experienced discrimination in the workplace and beyond.
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