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How to Prevent Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Author: Sahara Pynes, HR Solutions Group/Training Mavens

Sexual orientation generally refers to an individual's identification as heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian. Gender identity refers to an individual's internal sense of being male or female. 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 and gender identity. Moreover, employees affected by sexual orientation/gender identity 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/gender identity discrimination and protect themselves from litigation.