Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was intended to protect specific classes from employment discrimination based on color, race, national origin, and sex. However, it was not until the recent Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, Supreme Court ruling in 2020 that this changed. It was determined that Title VII protects against workplace discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. We can’t know for sure just how many instances of workplace discrimination against LGBTQIA members occurred that went overlooked before the ruling. And even today, sexual and gender orientation discrimination still occurs as some employers continue to break the law and fly under the legal radar.
But, while we may never know the exact extent to which members of the LGBTQIA community are affected, it is important to review what we do understand. This is so we can further prevent history from repeating itself and become more sensitive to the employment struggles that LGBTQIA members face. That is why this article will review how employment discrimination impacts LGBTQ members and the legal rights of the members of this community.
Employment discrimination and its legal definition must be reviewed to understand the workplace rights of LGBTQIA people further. Employment discrimination differs from workplace discrimination, although both are considered illegal under Title VII. Workplace discrimination occurs when the victim is already an employee, and while the terms can be used interchangeably, employment discrimination has an implication of power imbalance at play.
To clarify, under the definition of workplace discrimination, a coworker can be a part of the issue, as well as an employer. However, employment discrimination implies that an applicant or employee is mistreated or rejected based on their identity. All workplace discrimination is employment discrimination, but not all employment discrimination is workplace discrimination.
However, it is essential to note that if an employer has 15 or fewer employees from when a lawsuit occurs to the 20 weeks preceding the calendar year, they are not covered under Title VII. However, if an employer has 15 or more employees, including part-time or temporary, they must abide.
LGBTQIA members can be particularly affected by this form of discrimination, as some community members can be “easily identifiable.” For example, employers may refuse to employ a trans person if they do not fit into the traditional binary category of gender or are not considered by the employer to be “cis passing.” An employer may also have false beliefs or ideas about what a member of the LGBTQIA community looks like and wrongly mistreat a heterosexual or cisgender person—which is also illegal.
When looking critically at a company or business, one may want to look first at the company’s size. Subsequently, suppose you notice a total or majority of workers are of a particular bracket, without members of varying gender, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. In that case, this is likely not an accident. However, that is not always obvious; you may also hear hurtful epithets and/or verbal and physical harassment. Additionally, you may see employment qualifications that have little to nothing to do with the job. For example, if they disallow certain political leanings, clothing, flags, family dynamics, or other factors of outward appearance, this may be a form of LGBTQIA discrimination.
Employment discrimination against LGBTQIA members stretches back into the 1900s, and it can be argued that it appeared even earlier. Because of this, LGBTQIA community members have often been ousted and treated as outcasts, inherently diseased, or immoral. Because of this, community members have had a long history of a significant percentage of them being impoverished or homeless. These percentages wax and wane as time passes, with some of the worst of them occurring during the AIDS crisis of the 80s.
Still, an alarming number of gay and transgender young adults are homeless. This is not to say that employment discrimination is the sole cause. But the further pushing and distancing that employment discrimination perpetuates further deepen the societally ingrained stereotype of the “immoral” LGBTQIA community member. The more of an economic gap employment discrimination makes, the more the rights of LGBTQIA members are corroded.
This issue is, of course, like many other socioeconomic issues, cyclical. An LGBTQIA member is unemployed or fired, and they become more impoverished. The more impoverished a community becomes, the more they are disadvantaged and the fewer opportunities they have for education or advancement. And thus, the cycle continues. However, the issue becomes more complex when you look at LGBTQIA members who are disabled, people of color, or veterans.
Intersectionality is the overlapping of social categorizations. For example, a person can be nonbinary, and they can also be a person of color. Or a person can be transgender, and they can also be disabled. Any social categorization can be overlapped, making a person more vulnerable and susceptible to discrimination. Suppose an employer is likely to discriminate against you for being LGBTQIA. In that case, they are more likely to discriminate against you for being a person of color, disabled, or of a different religion.
As previously mentioned, workplace discrimination impacts LGBTQIA members by taking away opportunities, leaving them susceptible to poverty and homelessness. However, certain groups have already been put at a disadvantage due to their race or ability. For example, one in every five Black households is considered to be in a food desert. How does this compound with Black LGBTQIA members who face workplace discrimination? How many struggles can one person face?
These issues may seem unrelated, but combined, they put pressure on smaller, intersectional minority groups, creating an unlivable environment. Under our capitalist economy, taking away a fair shot at employment can likely be a death sentence. This is especially so when you consider the inherent societal and economic disadvantages of being a part of certain groups. Under the right circumstances, employment discrimination can create the perfect storm for generational poverty.
Because LGBTQIA people are now protected under Title VII, they have the right to file complaints with the EEOC just as any other protected class would. LGBTQIA community members have the right to be treated fairly during the application process and at their place of work. If you suspect that you are a victim of workplace discrimination, you should immediately begin to record all relevant evidence at your disposal and contact HR if you are already employed. This is so you can follow through with the proper proceedings before you begin to file a complaint with the EEOC. You have the right to compensation if you are verbally or physically harassed, isolated, rejected, or refused earned promotion based on your sexual orientation or gender identity.
Understanding the impacts of employment discrimination against LGBTQ members is critical in becoming a more inclusive and understanding society. To ensure that your legal proceedings go as smoothly as possible and that you have the best chances of them going in your favor, contact a sexual orientation discrimination lawyer. You deserve the best legal representation with someone interested and dedicated to meeting your specific legal needs.