Author: Sahara Pynes, HR Solutions Group/Training Mavens
Sexual orientation generally refers to an individual's identification as heterosexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian or transgender. Though not yet covered as a protected class under federal law, there have been numerous Congressional efforts seek to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals from private workplace discrimination and harassment. Some federal courts have extended Title VII gender discrimination or sexual harassment protection in cases of perceived gender stereotypes, cross-dressing and gender identity exploration. Further, many states have enacted laws to protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Moreover, employees affected by sexual orientation discrimination or harassment have utilized other legal theories against employers, such as battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation and wrongful termination.
Accordingly, employers must be aware of how to recognize potential discrimination issues, protect employees from sexual orientation discrimination and protect themselves from litigation.