Non-heterosexual and transgender workers have historically faced significant discrimination, harassment, and stigmatization in the workplace. In recent years, federal statutes and case law have created long-overdue employment protections for LGBTQIA workers, who can now pursue claims for legal relief and financial compensation after experiencing discrimination or harassment on the job.
If you’ve been the subject of discrimination at work because of who you are, the attorneys of Cruz Law Firm, P.A., want to help you demand the justice you deserve.
For years, we have fought to protect the rights and interests of hardworking people throughout the greater Tallahassee region, Jacksonville, and the Florida Panhandle. Our attorneys have taken more than 100 cases to trial, and our experience in the courtroom has given us an in-depth familiarity with the court system. In addition, our success on behalf of our clients is attested by our dozens of five-star reviews on Google and the many honors our attorneys have received, including our AV Preeminent rating from Martindale-Hubbell.
Would you like to talk with a Tallahassee LGBTQIA discrimination attorney? Then reach out to Cruz Law for an initial case review. We are ready to guide you through the process of your legal claim, help you better understand your options for seeking justice, and give you the support you need.
What Is LGBTQIA Discrimination
LGBTQIA discrimination occurs when an employee is treated unfairly by their employer due to the employee’s sexual orientation or transgender status. LGBTQIA discrimination can include being denied a job or promotion, not receiving equal pay, not being offered training or job opportunities, or being terminated or laid off. Discrimination can also include transgender workers not being provided accommodations for their gender identity, such as being forced to use restrooms inconsistent with their identified gender.
LGBTQIA discrimination can also involve harassment of a worker by managers/supervisors or co-workers for the targeted worker’s sexual orientation or transgender status. Harassment may include:
- Making offensive or derogatory comments about LGBTQIA individuals
- Questioning a worker’s sexual orientation or gender identity
- Threatening workers with employment retaliation or violence for being members of the LGBTQIA community
Examples of LGBTQIA Discrimination in the Workplace
Examples of behavior by employers, managers/supervisors, and co-workers that may constitute LGBTQIA discrimination include:
- Making employment decisions, such as hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, or training based on a worker’s sexual orientation or transgender status
- Excluding LGBTQIA workers from meetings or company events
- Not permitting employees to use restrooms or other private facilities that correspond to the employee’s gender identity
- Offensive, derogatory, or demeaning comments about a worker’s sexual orientation or transgender status (or the LGBTQIA community in general)
- Refusing to use an employee’s preferred pronouns
- Asking employees about their sexual orientation or gender identity or requiring employees to disclose sexual orientation or gender identity
- Taking adverse employment action against an employee after they begin a gender transition
What Laws Protect Employees from LGBTQIA Discrimination in Florida?
Although no state law in Florida expressly prohibits LGBTQIA discrimination in employment, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) does at the federal level. Title VII states that employers may not discriminate against current or prospective employees on the basis of sex. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Title VII’s prohibition on sex-based employment discrimination also includes discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status, as LGBTQIA discrimination involves employers treating workers differently because of their sex.
Title VII applies to the federal government as an employer and all private-sector employers with 15 or more employees, including unions and employment agencies. It also applies to state/local government employers with 15 or more employees. LGBTQIA employees of a covered employer may seek relief from employment discrimination under Title VII.
What Does the LGBTQIA Discrimination Law Mean for At-Will Employment?
As an “at-will” employment state, Florida allows employers who employ workers at will the right to fire those workers at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. However, an employer can’t fire an at-will employee for reasons that violate public policy. Employers who terminate workers for their sexual orientation or transgender status may try to shield themselves from liability under the at-will employment rule.
However, terminating a worker for their sexual orientation or transgender status violates Title VII and therefore constitutes a violation of public policy. Terminated, at-will LGBTQIA workers who suspect they have been discriminated against can file a claim for wrongful termination. They must then prove that their termination was motivated by discrimination against LGBTQIA individuals.
How to Prove LGBTQIA Discrimination
Employers rarely admit to discriminating against employees for their sexual orientation or transgender status. Therefore, LGBTQIA workers who believe they have been discriminated against at work must compile evidence showing that an adverse employment action they experienced was motivated by discrimination. Depending on your situation, this evidence may include:
- Employment records such as your employment agreements, employee handbooks or employer/HR policy documents, your performance reviews, or your pay stubs/income statements
- Hiring, termination, promotion, and pay data from your employer
- Emails, text messages, internal messaging system posts, or social media posts
- Contemporaneous notes of phone calls or in-person conversations
- Eyewitness testimony
- HR complaint records that received no follow-up
Even when the claimant’s evidence in an LGBTQIA discrimination case shows that an adverse employment action was motivated by discrimination, employers accused of LGBTQIA discrimination can offer evidence showing that the employment decision was made for a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason. However, if the employer offers a legitimate reason, an employee may rebut the employer’s assertion by presenting evidence that the purported reason was merely a pretext for discrimination. Evidence of a pretext can include:
- Suspicious timing of an adverse employment action, such as a decision occurring shortly after an employer learns of a worker’s sexual orientation or transgender status
- Derogatory or offensive comments made around the time of an adverse employment decision
- Suspicious comments made in connection with an employment decision, such as telling an LGBTQIA worker or candidate that they are not a “cultural fit” when declining to hire or terminating the individual
- Shifting explanations for an employment decision
- Refusal to explain an adverse employment decision
- An employer that has a pattern or practice of disfavoring LGBTQIA individuals in hiring, promotions, assignments, pay, or termination
What Remedies Are Available Through the Courts for LGBTQIA Discrimination?
You may be entitled to seek financial and legal remedies for LGBTQIA discrimination by filing an employment discrimination lawsuit against your employer. Relief available through an LGBTQIA discrimination federal lawsuit may include:
- Back pay, including base income, overtime pay, tips, bonuses, commissions, or fringe benefits you lost due to wrongful termination, discriminatory pay policies, or denial of promotions or job opportunities
- Front pay you should have earned in the future if not for the discrimination you experienced
- Emotional trauma and distress caused by discrimination or harassment
- Injunctive relief, such as reinstatement to your position or a court order requiring your employer to provide accommodations
- Reimbursement for legal fees and costs you incurred in pursuing your claims
- Punitive damages intended to punish an employer for intentional or willful discrimination
How Long Do I Have to File an LGBTQIA Discrimination Claim?
You have 180 days after experiencing an act of LGBTQIA discrimination in the workplace to file a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Once you file your charge of discrimination, the EEOC will investigate your claim and may issue you a notice of right-to-sue. The notice of right-to-sue permits you to file an employment discrimination lawsuit in federal court. You have 90 days after receiving your notice to file suit.
How Can a Tallahassee Employment Lawyer Help in an LGBTQIA Discrimination Case?
Pursuing a legal claim against your employer for discrimination can be a complex, anxiety-filled endeavor. You deserve legal representation you can rely on throughout the process of your claim. Let a Tallahassee LGBTQIA discrimination lawyer from Cruz Law help you by:
- Investigating the underlying facts and circumstances of your case to obtain evidence we can use to prepare your claim, including employment records, written and oral communications, and witness testimony.
- Documenting your ongoing and future financial and personal losses to help you seek full compensation and relief in your case.
- Communicating with you regularly to discuss your legal options at each stage and prepare you for what to expect.
- Filing your discrimination charges with the EEOC and handling communications with the agency or with your employer’s representatives.
- Taking your discrimination claims to court if necessary to demand accountability and relief from your employer.
Contact Our Tallahassee LGBTQIA Employment Discrimination Law Firm Today
Have you been denied a job, career advancement, or a healthy workplace because of who you are? Then don’t wait another day to start pursuing your rights after suffering from LGBTQIA employment discrimination. We can tell you about your rights to accountability and financial compensation for your losses due to workplace discrimination.
Contact Cruz Law today for a confidential consultation with a Tallahassee LGBTQIA discrimination lawyer.