Preventing Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace
Traditionally, gay and lesbian employees have found little in the law to protect them from discrimination and harassment in the
workplace. Times are changing, however, and a growing number of employers are finding themselves responsible for providing a
workplace that's free of harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Antidiscrimination Laws

Federal laws. While there is no federal law that prohibits this type of discrimination in private employment, an executive order
specifically outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal government.

If you are a private employer and you operate your business in a state, county, or city with a law or ordinance prohibiting sexual
orientation discrimination, you must follow that law despite the fact that there is no federal law in place.

State laws.  Twenty states and the District of Columbia have laws that currently prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in
private employment: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota,
Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Some of these states also specifically prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. (In addition, a handful of states have laws
prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in public workplaces only.)

Local laws. Locally, many cities and counties nationwide prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in at least some workplaces --
from Albany, New York to Ypsilanti, Michigan.

To find out whether your state, county, or city has a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, contact
your state labor department or your state fair employment office. You can also visit the Lambda Legal Defense and Education
Fund website at, where you will find a state-by-state list of antidiscrimination laws, including city and
county ordinances.

Other Ways Employees Can Sue You

Even if there is no law in your state, city, or county prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination, you should tread lightly in this
area. A prudent employer won't make decisions based on factors or characteristics unrelated to the job (such as sexual
orientation), even if no law explicitly prohibits it.

If you have an employee who feels that he or she has been treated unfairly and/or injured because of his or her sexual orientation,
that employee can still sue you under a number of legal theories that have nothing to do with discrimination.

These theories include the following:

  • intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress
  • harassment
  • assault
  • battery
  • invasion of privacy
  • defamation
  • interference with employment contract, and
  • termination in violation of public policy.

© 2010 Nolo
Reprinted with permission from the publisher, Nolo, Copyright 2009,

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your
individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an
attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has
been established.

urie Law Firm LLC represents employees and employers throughout Northern New Jersey and Central New Jersey, including  Montclair,
Livingston, Caldwell, West Orange, Newark, Morristown, Hackensack, Newark, Elizabeth, New Brunswick, Paterson, Jersey City,
Ridgewood, Wayne, Clifton, Passaic, Union City, Bayonne, Teaneck, Irvington, Union, Edison, Piscataway, Lawrenceville, Princeton,
Hoboken, East Hanover, Saddlebrook, Parsippany, Roseland and Woodbridge; as well as the counties of Essex, Bergen, Passaic, Middlesex,
Morris, Union, Sussex, Warren, Hudson and Mercer.

Copyright 2010, Lurie
Law Firm LLC.  All rights reserved.
A growing number of states prohibit discrimination against gay and lesbian employees.