In 2020, the supreme court ruled that workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation was unlawful. While this was a fantastic milestone for the LGBTQIA+ community, workplace discrimination still exists among this portion of the population. Many, understandably, live in fear and still wonder—can you be fired for being gay? The answer, unfortunately, is more complex than it should be.
On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also protects people from discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. Title VII protects all employees in every state, district, and United States territory, regardless of immigration status or citizenship. As Title VII is a federal law, it is a nationwide standard.
Businesses cannot fire people of the LGBTQIA+ community because of how they appear or how they choose to dress. In addition, they have a right to request equal access to bathrooms and locker rooms, cannot have clients taken away from them (even at the client's request) because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and can file for harassment if the company does not respect their pronouns.
While this may seem perfect on paper, there are exceptions to Title VII. Most notably, religious organizations have the right to fire employees or reject applicants that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs. Unfortunately, many deeply religious states use this loophole to fire employees and applicants, even if their business has nothing to do with religion. In addition, Title VII does not apply to Tribal Nations, but employers with 15 or more employees operating on tribal reservations must comply.
So, can you be fired for being gay? The answer depends. When applying for jobs in deeply religious states, you should be wary. Utilize state equality index maps to see whether you live in a state that may fire you based on sexual orientation. These maps allow you to easily view which states do or don’t typically protect employee rights.
If you’re worried about your rights or believe that you’ve been a victim of workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, contact a sexual orientation discrimination lawyer who will be on your side and protect your rights.