While same-sex marriage may now be legal in Michigan and across the United States, federal and state anti-discrimination laws are still murky as to whether they protect against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The continuing omission of sexual orientation from anti-discrimination laws leaves many gay and lesbian workers worried that they can be fired solely because of their sexual orientation. This may cause many people to keep their sexual orientation a secret.
Depending on where you work, you may have more protections available to you than you think if you believe that you are the victim of discrimination at your job.
Local Ordinances Can Provide Protection
When states have failed to act, many cities and municipalities have enacted their own anti-discrimination ordinances that contain sexual orientation as a protected class. Here in Michigan, major cities like Detroit, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Royal Oak, and Grand Rapids all have laws prohibiting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Currently, there are more than 40 municipalities with ordinances.
Recognizing The Signs Of Sexual Orientation Discrimination
Just like other types of discrimination, sexual orientation-based discrimination may not be overt. Instead, it may be more subtle. It can include:
- Being laid off or fired instead of other employees who fit certain demographic categories
- Being routinely passed up for promotions despite doing good work
- Being given only menial responsibilities despite your job description
- Being asked to meet numbers that are unreasonably high compared to your peers
- Hearing fellow employees or higher ups making jokes about LGBT workers
You Have Options
If you are suffering from discrimination because of your sexual orientation, it may be possible to take legal action using a local ordinance, your company’s own employment policies or other existing state or federal protections to protect your rights. This could include using sex discrimination laws when employers stereotype against LGBT workers because they do not fit a certain “mold.”
Do not give up hope. Consider discussing your options with an experienced employment lawyer who knows how to make the law work for you.