LGBTQ+ discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because of that person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including transgender status.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ+ employees from workplace discrimination including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, and benefits.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency in charge of enforcing Title VII, has interpreted the law as specifically prohibiting employers from the following:
1. Segregating employees based on actual or perceived customer preferences. For example, an employer cannot remove an LGBTQ+ employee from working with a customer solely because a customer requests to work with a non-LGBTQ+ employee.
2. Denying a transgender person from dressing consistent with that person’s gender identity.
3. Denying a transgender person equal access to a bathroom, locker room or shower that corresponds to the employee’s gender identity. For example, if an employer has separate bathrooms for men and women, the employer must allow all men (including transgender men) to use the men’s facilities and all women (including transgender women) to use the women’s facilities.
Title VII also protects LGBTQ+ employees from harassment in the workplace. Harassment can include offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s sexual orientation, transgender status, or gender transition. Accidental misuse of a transgender employee’s preferred name or pronouns does not violate Title VII. However, if a party intentionally and repeatedly uses the wrong name and pronoun, this could amount to a hostile work environment.
Minor teasing, offhand comments or isolated incidents that are not frequent or serious may not be considered harassment. Alternatively, if the conduct is so severe or pervasive, a hostile work environment arises, and an employer must take reasonable steps to stop the offending conduct.