Confronting Homophobia In The Workplace

(The following article was graciously provided by HKM Marketing.)

Confronting Homophobia in the Workplace

While workplaces are adopting more accommodating attitudes towards the LGBTQ community, they need to do more. Some workers still face rampant discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

You might also experience prejudice due to your association with colleagues with different sexual preferences. In addition, you may undergo other forms of harassment based on gender, marital status, and disability.

Examples of Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation

One example of workplace homophobia is the failure to hire or promote individuals because they’re gay, even though they’re qualified for the position. You might also start receiving excessive punishment and isolation immediately after coming out. Although some companies still have blatantly homophobic policies, most of them are subtle.

Workplace harassment is another type of sexual orientation discrimination. Examples include hateful comments about your sexual identity, inappropriate touching, pressure to give sexual favors, tasteless drawings, and sexual assault. All of these examples represent homophobia and are a serious breach of your human rights.

Are There Federal Laws Against Homophobia In The Workplace?

The Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges guaranteed same-sex couples the freedom and right to marry in every state. This decision drew from the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment. In doing so, it gave them the same protection as heterosexual couples.

There’s no specific federal law that protects employees based on their sexual orientation. Some states already have laws against sexual orientation discrimination in employment, housing, and provision of services.

At the federal level, The Equality Act is a proposed law that’s still in the senate. If passed, it will criminalize discrimination based on sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation in various scenarios. Other than employment, they include public accommodation, jury service, credit, education, and federally funded programs.

Other Types of Protection against Workplace Homophobia

Most federal employees enjoy protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation, but what about private employees? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) extends this protection to all employees who file claims. Some collective bargaining agreements by unions also include anti-discrimination clauses.

If your union contract has these provisions, you may file a complaint if you experience harassment based on sexual orientation. Encouragingly, over 90% of Fortune 500 corporations have anti-homophobia policies, while more than 60% prohibit gender identity discrimination. In 2015, the EEOC sought to clear the air on whether Title VII of The Civil Rights Act covers anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

The commission ruled by a 3-2 vote that the law does protect gay employees against workplace prejudice. This decision applies to both federal and private employees who forward complaints to the EEOC.

In 2014, the Justice Department also expressed similar views concerning sexual orientation discrimination. If you’re facing these difficulties, please contact a qualified employment lawyer for a candid discussion about your legal options.

Common Concerns about Workplace Homophobia

As a gay, bisexual, pansexual, or asexual employee, you might have some apprehension about various topics. They include:

● Harassment by same-sex individuals. The harasser’s gender doesn’t matter, so long as you feel their conduct is unwelcome.

● Homophobic slurs. Unless in explicit situations, it’s not always easy to determine whether some comments constitute homophobia or casual banter. However, if the offending party keeps repeating them even after making your concerns known, it may be sexual orientation discrimination.

● Discussions about your sexual orientation. You don’t have to reveal your sexual orientation if you prefer privacy. If you decide to share or place a photo of your same-sex partner on display, your employer should respect this decision.

● Spouse and family support. If married, your partner and family have a right to enjoy your health coverage and other benefits.

● Employer discrimination on religious grounds. Your higher-ups will have a hard time justifying harassment based on their personal beliefs. Although some religious organizations have explicit anti-LGBTQ policies, you still enjoy your rights, as outlined by federal and state laws.

● Leave for family emergencies. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows you to enjoy this benefit without facing retaliation. By revoking Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, the Supreme Court changed the definition of “spouse.” It now includes same-sex spouses and common-law partners.

There’s some confusion concerning the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. The first refers to your preferred gender, regardless of your anatomical designation at birth. Sexual orientation generally refers to whether you’re gay, straight, or bisexual.

In that regard, a transgender person can identify as straight. Courts in most states are yet to outline the differences between these two concepts.


Members of the LGBTQ community should enjoy a safe and rewarding workplace similar to their heterosexual colleagues. Whether you’re an employer or employee, it’s crucial to understand anti-discrimination laws to preserve everyone’s dignity and ensure legal compliance. Tackling homophobia in the workplace is a vital step in achieving your career and business objectives.

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