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What Are New EEOC Resources Concerning Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Workplace Rights?

November 5th, 2021
workplace rights

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released a new resource document that addresses common workplace issues regarding the rights of LGBTQ+ employees. This document, along with a new landing page and links on the EEOC website, aims to help employees, employers, and the public better understand discrimination law and the legal protections for LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace.

The new document, entitled Protections Against Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity, does not contain any new legal rulings or stances. Instead, it provides refresher information about EEOC’s positions on the laws it enforces. It also:

  • Reiterates EEOC’s positions on Title VII concepts, rights, and responsibilities related to sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.
  • Explains the significance of the Bostock ruling.
  • Compiles, in one place, information about sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination to serve as a quick reference guide for employees and employers.
  • Provides information about the EEOC’s role in enforcing Title VII and protecting employees’ civil rights.

The document also goes into detailed information regarding three LBGTQ+ issues employers seem to be particularly confused or ignorant about:

Workplace attire. The document explains that prohibiting a transgender person from dressing or presenting consistent with their gender identity is sex discrimination. So is discrimination against an employee who does not conform to stereotypical feminine or masculine behavior.

Bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers. Employers can have separate, gender-segregated workplace bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms, but they cannot deny employees equal access to the bathroom, locker room, or shower that corresponds to their gender identity.

Pronouns and names. Using pronouns and names inconsistent with an employee’s gender identity could be considered harassment, as it is unwelcome conduct based on gender identity. Although accidental misuse of a transgender employee’s preferred name and pronoun does not violate Title VII, intentional and repeated misuse does as it contributes to an unlawful hostile work environment.

What is Title VII?

The new EEOC resource document provides in-depth information about Title VII. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, also known as Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and country of origin.

Title VII applies to private employers, state and local governments, and educational institutions that employ 15 or more individuals. It also includes employment agencies, labor organizations, and similar entities. The EEOC enforces federal Title VII laws.

Title VII protects job applicants, current employees, full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary, and former employees of covered employers. It protects employees regardless of citizenship or immigration status in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Title VII generally does not apply to independent contractors.

For additional protection, Title 42, Chapter 21 of the U.S. Code also prohibits discrimination based on age, disability, gender, race, country of origin, and religion in various environments, including employment. Most states have laws that prohibit sex discrimination, as well. However, federal Title VII laws supersede state and local laws.

What is the Bostock Ruling?

Bostock v. Clayton County is a 2020 Supreme Court ruling that stated that to discriminate against a person based on sexual orientation or transgender status is to discriminate against that person based on sex. Title VII, therefore, makes it illegal for a covered employer to consider an employee’s sexual orientation or transgender status when making employment-related decisions.

These employment decisions covered under Title VII include but are not limited to the following:

  • Hiring
  • Promotions or demotions
  • Pay, overtime, bonuses, and other compensation
  • Firing, furloughs, or reductions in force
  • Discipline
  • Work assignments
  • Training
  • Fringe benefits
  • Other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment

The Bostock ruling was actually one decision on three different sexual discrimination cases, two on sexual orientation and one on sexual identity. It was a landmark decision that gave LGBTQ+ employees legal protections under existing laws and a new sense of workplace security.

What Should I Do if I Experience Workplace Sexual Discrimination?

Anyone, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, who is suffering from sexual discrimination in the workplace should take the following steps:

Document the discrimination. It is important to accurately document the dates, times, frequency, and nature of the discrimination and those involved in the behavior. Do not rely on memory for this vital information. Screenshots, videos, and photos can be valuable as well.

Report the behavior. Those experiencing discrimination should report the behavior to company authorities: the human resources department, a supervisor, a supervisor’s manager, or other leaders. 

Follow procedures. Follow the company’s policies and procedures for resolving complaints.

Cooperate in the employer’s investigation. Share copies of documentation and evidence; keep the originals.

Document any correspondence. Document in writing any correspondence or discussion with human resources, supervisors, or other company authorities about the harassment. Email is an excellent way to document correspondence.

File a claim. If the employer responds unsatisfactorily or does not respond at all, file a sexual discrimination claim with the EEOC. In Pennsylvania, you must file with the EEOC within 300 days from the date of the harassment. Note that an employee is federally protected from employer retaliation if they file with the EEOC.

Hire a sex discrimination lawyer. The EEOC process can be complex, and there are many deadlines to meet. A lawyer who focuses on sexual discrimination and employment issues can guide you throughout the process as well as see the case through to a fair and just end. The lawyer will do the following:

  • Negotiate with an employer or an employer’s legal counsel on your behalf to reach an agreement that is suitable to you, such as job or promotion reinstatement, compensation, or other action.
  • Negotiate with the employer’s insurer if the case is referred to an insurance company.
  • Prepare a lawsuit with solid evidence in your favor should the case move to litigation.
  • Fight for your rights under all applicable state and federal laws regarding sexual discrimination. In addition to federal Title VII, support can come from Pennsylvania state laws as well, including:
    • The Crime Victims Act: Defines rights for victims in federal criminal cases.
    • The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act: Prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, handicap, and disability.
    • Title IX of the Higher Education Act of 1972: Sexual discrimination protection in federally funded education programs or activities.

What Compensation May I Receive for Sexual Discrimination?

Although every case is different, workplace sexual discrimination victims can seek the following compensation:

Financial compensation. This can include compensation for costs related to mental and psychological duress, medical expenses, lost wages, loss of employment opportunity, and other damages.

Employer action. The victim may also seek action by the employer in their legal claim, such as job reinstatement, restoration of benefits, promotion, and raise or title change.

Out-of-pocket expenses. These commonly include court costs, attorney fees, travel, and other costs related to the case and the discriminatory behavior.

Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Advocate for LBQTQ+ Employees

Workplace discrimination because of a person’s LGBQT+ status is illegal.  If you believe you are a victim of workplace discrimination because of your gender identity or sexual orientation, contact the Philadelphia employment discrimination lawyers at Sidney. L. Gold & Associates, P.C. today. The sooner we are involved, the quicker we can seek compensation for the emotional, financial, and employment damages you incur. Call us today at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients in Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and Cherry Hill, South Jersey.

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