Our sexual orientation and gender identity are our personal business. They should not be a factor in how employees are treated in the workplace.
It may come as a surprise, but until recently, no federal law was viewed as explicitly forbidding workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sex discrimination, but it does not mention gender identity or sexual orientation. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Bostock decision, held that sexual orientation is covered under Title VII as a form of sex discrimination. Fortunately, if you are an employee in Washington, D.C. (other than a federal government employee), you are also protected by the DC Human Rights Act, which has a broader coverage than does Title VII.
What is the DC Human Rights Act?
The D.C. Human Rights Act prohibits any employer, regardless of a company’s size, from firing, suspending and/or demoting an individual based on their sexual orientation, among other factors. Employers cannot deny your application for employment nor discipline or punish you because your sexual orientation does not match their stereotypes. The DC Human Rights Act bans any action or practice that has a discriminatory or retaliatory effect on an employee. It also prohibits harassment in the workplace based on your being in a protected class, including harassment targeting your sexual orientation.
If you believe that someone in your workplace discriminated against you because of your sexual orientation, you can file a complaint against the employer, and sometimes also against the individual harasser. For the DC Human Rights Act, you must file within a year from when the unjust action or harassment took place. You may also want to file a claim under federal law (Title VII) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For the DC Human Rights Act, the court or jury can award damages in an amount it finds appropriate in relation to the unlawful discrimination you suffered. You may want to talk with a lawyer to discuss your options.
You may find yourself subjected to discrimination or retaliation, but our employment law lawyers are ready to fight on your behalf. Discuss your case with a member of our team by calling 202-745-1942 or completing the online contact form.