Do You Need an LGBTQ Discrimination Lawyer?

Do You Need an LGBTQ Discrimination Lawyer?
  • Have you faced job discrimination due to your sexual orientation?

  • Are you a victim of retaliation for calling out workplace homophobia?
  • Is your job in jeopardy because your boss can't deal with your gender identity?

No federal law yet forbids private-sector discrimination based on sexual orientation — at least, not explicitly. Neither orientation nor gender identity is mentioned in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, for instance. Still, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination in the workplace also offers protection to employees who don't conform to traditional sex stereotypes. Based on this ruling, a number of courts have concluded that LBGT discrimination is effectively illegal under federal law — and an increasing number of states have enacted laws that make such protection explicit. In addition, presidential orders have forbidden workplace bias against LGBTQ employees who work for the government or on federal contracts.

If your employer has discriminated against you because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, the law is moving in your direction. No matter where you live, you have good legal options; in many states, you have clear legal rights.

People ask us:

The Employment Law Group® law firm has a strong track record in pursuing claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and under various state anti-discrimination laws.  We have experience representing victims of LGBTQ employment discrimination, and have litigated before the EEOC, federal courts, and state courts across the country. We participate in the attorney referral network of the LGBT Bar Association of the District of Columbia.

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Important statutes in this area of law:

  • Civil Rights Act of 1964

    Protection against workplace discrimination; prohibition against retaliation; enforcement by EEOC

If you have suffered illegal discrimination or retaliation under Title VII or state anti-discrimination laws, you may be entitled to reinstatement in your job; back pay for lost wages; front pay for future lost wages; litigation costs and attorney fees; and other compensatory damages.

As with all legal claims, deadlines are crucial. In many jurisdictions, private-sector employees have only 180 days to file charges of workplace discrimination.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Title VII say about LGBT employment discrimination?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not explicitly identify LGBTQ employees as a protected class. However, the U.S. Supreme Court in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins held that Title VII prohibits discrimination based on an employee’s non-conformance to traditional sex stereotypes. An increasing number of federal courts interpret this to mean that LGBTQ discrimination is forbidden under Title VII.

I work in Washington, D.C. Am I protected from workplace discrimination on the basis of my sexual orientation?

Yes. The D.C. Human Rights Act prohibits termination, suspension, demotion, failure to hire, and harassment of individuals based on their sexual orientation. It also forbids discrimination based on gender identity or expression, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth. The D.C. Human Rights Act applies to all employers — unlike Title VII, it doesn’t exempt workplaces with just a handful of employees. Employees who believe they have suffered discrimination based on sexual orientation must file a complaint within one year of the date on which the adverse action was taken. The D.C. Human Rights Act does not have a damages cap and authorizes reinstatement, back pay, and compensatory damages.

I work in Maryland. Am I protected from workplace discrimination on the basis of my sexual orientation?

Yes. Under Maryland law, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based upon sexual orientation. An employee who suffers from discrimination can file a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Human Rights and has the right to a jury trial. A prevailing employee is entitled to reinstatement, back pay, and litigation costs including attorney fees.

I work in a state that does not have a law forbidding LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace. Am I still protected?

Maybe. Although Title VII doesn’t expressly prohibit LGBTQ employment discrimination, some federal courts have started to read the statute that way. You should speak with an attorney to learn whether you’re in a favorable federal jurisdiction — and what your other options might be.

I am working on a federal contract and my employer is discriminating against me on the basis of my sexual orientation. Am I protected?

Yes. On July 21, 2014, President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13672, which extends workplace protections to employees who are working on federal contracts and are discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.


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TELG attorneys mentioned: Adam Augustine Carter (Principal)

Area of Law: Contracts