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LGBT Discrimination in Florida

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Discrimination because of sexual orientation occurs where an employer or employee discriminates against an employee as a result of perceived sexual orientation, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual. Federal employment discrimination laws currently only offer employees protection based on national origin, sex, age, religion, race, and disability. However, there is currently no federal law that bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Similarly, in Florida, there is currently no state law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, if you are being discriminated against based on sexual orientation, there is a movement towards states starting to extend their anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation. Additionally, there may be alternatives to sue your employer under local laws or other legal theories.

The Shift Towards Extending Anti-Discrimination Laws to Sexual Orientation

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed its first two discrimination claims based on sexual orientation on March 1, 2016. This two claims were in two separate lawsuits: one in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against Scott Medical Health Center and one in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, against Pallet Companies. Specifically, the two claims involved a gay male employee and a lesbian female employee who were faced with hostile work environments due to their sexual orientation.  The two claims were significant as they highlight that the EEOC believes individuals should not be discriminated against in the workplace based on their sexual orientation. It also seems to highlight that the EEOC feels states who have not already extended discrimination laws to encompass sexual orientation should shift towards doing so.

Alternatives to Suing for Employment Discrimination Under Federal or State Law

Although Florida does not have laws specifically prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, there are some potential alternatives to consider so you may still have an option to pursue action against your employer:

  1. First, some cities and counties have passed specific ordinances that ban discrimination against an employee due to sexual orientation. A local employment attorney can help you look into local ordinances to determine whether there is such an ordinance in your city/county.
  2. Second, your specific employer may have adopted anti-discrimination policies in their employment contract and/or handbook that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. These policies may provide for termination of an employee if they discriminate against someone else.
  3. Finally, if there is no specific law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation, there may be an option to sue your employer based on other legal theories depending on the circumstances of discrimination, including but not limited to, intentional infliction of emotional distress, harassment, assault, invasion of privacy, defamation, or wrongful termination.

Contact Us For Assistance

Although it is not illegal under Florida state law to discriminate against an employee due to sexual orientation, the experienced Clearwater employment discrimination attorneys at Dilla Employment Law, P.A. can help you see if there is an alternative claim you could bring against your employer on the basis of harassment, invasion of privacy, defamation, wrongful termination, or another ground. Contact us today for assistance.

Resource:

eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/3-1-16.cfm

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