LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace
Although states across the nation last year witnessed the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, in the question regarding whether it remains legal in the workplace a to discriminate against employees who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) within the is in limbo. Indeed, according to an article in USA Today, “in 28 states, it is legal to fire someone based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.” Luckily, for many Floridians, local statute may prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation when the state laws do not specifically provide protections. Even better, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) recently announced intentions to process charges of discrimination sounding in discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – so the law is evolving.
Still, just because not everyone may be protected against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, this fact alone does not mean that LGBT individuals do not have any recourse for workplace discrimination.
Employee Discrimination in Florida Against LGBT Workers
As the advocacy group Equality Florida Action, Inc. underscores on its website, “throughout most of Florida . . . the LGBT community is currently left out of statewide non-discrimination protections.” In other words, Florida is one of the many states where it is not explicitly illegal to discriminate against employees who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Nonetheless, while the Florida Civil Rights Act may not specifically define sexual orientation as a protected class, some litigants have found success with protections under the anti-gender discrimination being extended to situations of sexual orientation discrimination.
Yet the lack of attention to LGBT rights and protections does not foreclose the possibility of winning a federal employment discrimination claim. To be sure, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled in favor of employees—including in the state of Florida—who have filed discrimination claims based on sexual orientation.
EEOC Stands Up Against LGBT Employment Discrimination
For several years, the EEOC has been making decisions that appear to expand the protections of Title VII. For instance, as the articles notes, back in 2012 the EEOC “found discrimination against an employee due to his or her gender identity falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.” In that case, a transgender woman alleged that her employer fired her because she was transitioning.
As a news release from the EEOC explains, it adopted a strategic plan in December of 2012 that listed “coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals under Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions” as “an enforcement priority” for the years 2013-2016.
Just this past summer, the EEOC ruled in favor of a Florida employee who contended that “he was not promoted due to his sexual orientation as a gay man,” according to the article. While the EEOC is taking steps to protect LGBT individuals from workplace discrimination, advocates insist that we need a federal law in place specifying that employers are prohibited from discrimination against employees based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Even more promising is that employees working in Counties like Palm Beach, Miami Dade, Orange, Pinellas, or cities like Orlando, Tallahassee, Tampa, West Palm Beach, and Gainesville may find protection under local ordinances which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, providing clear protection from discrimination even when state law and federal law may not be as clear.
If you have questions about filing an employment discrimination claim, you should discuss your case with an experienced West Palm Beach employment discrimination attorney. A dedicated advocate at our firm can discuss your case with you today. Contact Scott • Wagner and Associates to learn more about how we can assist with your claim.