How should an employer handle employee complaints about gender identity or sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace?

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Gender identity and sexual orientation are protected under federal law (Title VII) and certain state and local laws. Therefore, complaints of discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation must be taken seriously and handled properly.

Even if an employer is not covered by federal, state or local law, consider implementing policies and practices prohibiting discrimination of any kind against individuals in a particular group. Include the process for filing a discrimination complaint and the consequences for violating the policy. In addition, train supervisors on how to react (and how not to react) to a discrimination complaint.

When faced with an employee complaint about gender identity or sexual orientation discrimination, an employer should generally follow the same procedures used in other investigations:

  • Swiftly, fairly, comprehensively and confidentially investigate any complaint of discrimination;
  • Assure the reporting employee that they will not be retaliated against;
  • Interview the complaining employee, the accused and any potential witnesses; and
  • Take clear notes regarding all relevant facts (including names, dates, times and places).

An employer should try to avoid a) making make assumptions about the employee's truthfulness or otherwise reach conclusions before the end of the investigation, or b) recording more than the facts as relayed.