Sexual Orientation Discrimination

California Law - Sexual Orientation Discrimimination In The Workplace

It is illegal in California for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of that employee's sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation.

There are no federal laws prohibiting this type of discrimination.

Perceived Sexual Orientation

It is also illegal in California for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of that employee's perceived sexual orientation.

So if an employer believes an employee is gay, and fires him because of that, it is illegal whether or not the employee is actually gay.

Statute of Limitations on Sexual Orientation Discrimination In the Workplace

One of the aspects of the California law is that the employee must make a complaint to the California Labor Commission no more than 30 days after he or she is discriminated against. Only after the Labor Commission has processed the claim may the employee sue in court.

Sexual Orientation Discrimination and Combination With Other Laws

Frequently the same actions that violate the laws against sexual orientation discrimination violate other laws as well. It is possible that an employer who is discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation is also discriminating on the basis of gender.

For example, a male employer asks a lesbian employee to sleep with him. She says no, and mentions her sexual orientation. He says that he won't employ a lesbian and fires her. It could be argued that he has also discriminated on the basis of sex, because it's illegal for him to fire her just because she didn't sleep with him. That would be a form of sexual harassment. (For a fuller discussion on sexual harassment, see the section on Sexual Harassment - Workplace.)

Damages for Sexual Orientation Discrimination

The law against sexual orientation discrimination is very new, so it is not clear what damages can be received in court. However, it appears that employees can recover their lost wages and other benefits, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages. It is not at all clear whether or not they may recover attorneys fees and costs.

Further Information