A new federal court ruling has clarified that discrimination based on sexual orientation is included under federal civil rights protections against sex discrimination. This allows employees who are faced with discrimination and harassment in the workplace over their sexual orientation to sue employers in federal court.
The heart of the issue is the understanding of what sex stereotyping means. When preconceived ideas about how men are supposed to think, feel, and act, how women are supposed to do the same, and those ideas by managers, leaders, and coworkers turn into expectations or demands, that behavior makes the workplace discriminatory for the man or woman who do not meet those preconceived, stereotypical idea about how they should be acting or feeling.
In simple terms, the people and policies in a workplace cannot demand that everyone behave as if they were the majority sexual orientation. This social and institutional pressure forces employees to either hide and pretend to be someone they are not, or to endure harassment and discrimination. Neither of these situations makes for a productive or cohesive workplace, because discrimination and stereotyping always poisons the culture of a workplace.
This decision includes hiring and firing behaviors, adverse job actions, and retaliation for complaints. The case that was before the courts involved a staff member who complained about being harassed over his sexual orientation, and management response was that he could quit if he didn’t like the way he was being treated.
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