Can an employer fire you for being gay? In some countries, yes – but not in the United States. Here’s what you need to know.
Can a U.S. Employer Fire You for Being Gay?
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that workers can’t be fired for being gay or transgender, and as you most likely know, the Supreme Court is the law of the land. in a historic 6-3 decision, the court decided that it’s impossible to discriminate against LGBTQIA+ workers without also discriminating against them for their sex.
In the majority opinion, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, said, “An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions. That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”
That means that it’s unlawful for an employer to discriminate against someone based on their sex.
And although workers in California were already protected by laws that prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, this case was a big win for the LGBTQIA+ community nationwide.
Related: FEHA FAQ
What is Sex Discrimination?
Sex discrimination occurs when one person (in this case, a person representing an employer) treats another person differently because of that person’s sex. In California, that includes sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions (including breastfeeding). It also includes sex stereotypes, such as “women must dress this way” or “men aren’t supposed to become emotional.”
There are federal laws in place that prevent employers from engaging in sex discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment. That includes:
- Hiring and firing
- Job assignments and promotions
- All other terms and conditions of employment
Harassing a person because of that person’s sex is also off limits (and again, that includes the person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or pregnancy).
What if You Were Fired for Being Gay?
If you’ve been fired for being gay, you may have legal recourse. Your rights are outlined under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which covers employees and job applicants for employers that have 15 or more employees, as well as union members. And if you’re in the state of California, the California Fair Pay Act, California Equal Pay Act of 1949 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act protect you when working for or applying to work for an employer with five or more employees.
Because all these laws are in place to protect you, you may be able to take your employer (or your prospective employer, if you were discriminated against during the hiring process based on your membership in the LGBTQIA+ community) to court.
Related: What’s a hostile work environment?
How to Tell if Your Employer Discriminated Against You
Though most employers won’t come out and say “We’re not promoting you because you’re gay,” there may be ways you can prove that your employer discriminated against you because of your membership in the LGBTQIA+ community. If any of these sound familiar, you may have a case:
- Your employer regularly excludes members of one sex from meetings or work-related social events
- Your employer or supervisor suggests that members of one gender dress to impress people of another (or even the same) gender
- Coworkers or supervisors sharing offensive memes, comic strips or other documents that feed into sex stereotypes, or that contain sexual content
- There’s a pattern of one sex being promoted across your workplace while another is not
- Supervisors in your workplace don’t take reports of discrimination seriously
What Happens if You Sue Your Employer for Firing You for Being Gay?
Your attorney will give you specific guidance because every case is different, but you may be able to sue your employer. If your case is successful, you could be entitled to:
- Back pay or front pay
- A promotion or raise
- Benefits (including a pension)
- Pain and suffering or emotional distress damages
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About being Fired for Being Gay?
If you believe you were fired for being gay, you may want to talk to an attorney as soon as you can. Call us at 818-230-8380 right away to discuss your situation with an experienced professional who will answer your questions and give you the legal advice you need. If it’s easier, you can also fill out the form below to schedule your free consultation.