In two ground-breaking lawsuits this past March, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleges that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, “sex discrimination” includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This is a developing area of employment law, and these lawsuits are part of the EEOC’s national strategy to seek employment protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers under Title VII. According to the EEOC’s press release, the two lawsuits both involve employees who were harassed for being gay or lesbian, and then fired in retaliation for complaining.
· Stay up-to-date on state and federal workplace harassment laws. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is already prohibited under state law in California, Oregon, and Washington, but not in Idaho or Montana. Federal contractors are also prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
· Unwelcome personal remarks and gestures, regardless of legal prohibitions, can lead to workplace friction, poor employee morale, and increased employee absenteeism.
· Supervisors should be trained to put a stop to inappropriate discriminatory behavior, and to notify Human Resources immediately if a worker complains of harassment in the workplace.
If you haven’t conducted non-harassment training for supervisors and workers in the last couple of years, it’s probably time for a refresher. (In California, such training is mandatory for supervisors every two years.) Contact your Vigilant employment attorney or our training specialist, Valerie Pyle (425-349-4477), to schedule an in-house training.