Many LGBTQ employees in Washington continue to suffer discrimination in the workplace, even though discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal under federal and state laws. Washington state employers are legally prohibited from considering an employee’s gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation when making decisions. Employers cannot hire, fire, deny a promotion, or make any other employment decision based on an employee’s sexual expression.
LGBTQ often face an uphill battle when it comes to enjoying a workplace that is free from discrimination and harassment because they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, or queer. At Sapphire Legal, PLLC, we believe that everyone should be able to advance their careers without harassment or discrimination. We have helped many Washington clients successfully win claims against their employers for LGBTQ discrimination. Contact Sapphire Legal, PLLC as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation and learn how we can help you advocate for your rights.
The Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD)
Federal and state laws protect LGBTQ employees from workplace discrimination. LGTBT discrimination involves treating a job applicant or an employee unfavorably because of that individual’s sex, gender identity, or transgender status. In 2006, Washington passed the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), which prohibits discrimination based on a person’s “gender expression or identity.” WLAD is one of the most protective laws in the country, and it protects LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in the following areas:
- Housing, including the buying, selling or renting of homes, condos, or apartments
- Places of public accommodation
- Within certain workplaces
- In insurance transactions, including health insurance transactions
- In credit-based financial transactions, including applying for credit cards and loans
- In schools, protecting students from harassment, bullying, and intimidation
- From gender expression-motivated violence and threats
Additionally, five other Washington state localities have passed laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Olympia, Burien, Seattle, Tacoma, and King County all have their version of the WLAD, prohibiting gender-based discrimination.
Protected Employees Under the WLAD
The WLAD specifically prohibits discrimination in the workplace. The protections offered under the WLAD cover public employers and many private employers. Private employers with eight or more employees, including labor unions and employment agencies, must abide by the prohibitions against LGBTQ discrimination in the WLAD. Sectarian organizations and nonprofit religious organizations are exempt from coverage under the WLAD.
LGBTQ Employment Discrimination
Employers cannot discriminate against an employee based on an employee’s sex — this includes pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Washington law protects employees whose gender identity expression does not conform to traditional norms, roles, and stereotypes. Additionally, employers cannot deny employment benefits, including healthcare coverage, to different-sex couples. An employer cannot make any of the following employment decisions based on your real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity:
- Refuse to hire you
- Fire you from a job
- Deny a promotion that you deserve
- Discriminate regarding dress-code policies
- Discriminate regarding bathroom access
- Bar you from future employment with them
- Discriminate against you in terms of compensation or benefits
- Offer you disadvantageous terms of conditions of employment
- Circulate a job advertisement that prevents LGBTQ individuals from applying
Federal Law Prohibits LGBTQ Discrimination
LGBTQ discrimination is also illegal under federal employment law. Specifically, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also protects employees from LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace. The Supreme Court recently held that an employer could not fire an employee because of their transgender status or sexual orientation. Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, No. 17-1618 (S. Ct. June 15, 2020).
Workplace discrimination against an employee or potential employee because of gender identity or sexual orientation is considered a violation of federal law. Employers cannot discriminate based on an employee’s sex, sexual orientation, or transgender status in any employment area, including in hiring, firing, job assignments, pay, layoff, promotions, training, and awarding benefits.
LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace can be overt or subtle. In some cases, employers have instituted practices and policies that apply to everyone, but may negatively impact people of certain gender identity or orientation. Such policies may violate federal and state anti-discrimination laws as well when the policies are not job-related or necessary for the company’s operation. Federal law also prohibits harassment in the workplace based on an employee’s membership in a protected class. Thus, if you’ve experienced harassment or a hostile work environment, you may be able to file a claim against your employer.
Bringing a Claim Against Your Employer
If you’ve experienced LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace, you may be able to make a legal claim against your employer. You will have to show that your employer discriminated against you because of your sexual or gender identity when making an employment decision. When employers violate the law, the employee can hold them accountable under state or federal anti-discrimination laws.
Employees who bring successful claims against their employers can recover against their employers to be made “whole” again. Successful lawsuits allow employees to recover lost back wages if they’ve been fired or demoted from their job. Their employer can be required to hire them, reinstate them to a position, or promote them. Courts can require employers to institute policy changes, force them to implement non-discrimination policies or require them to cease and desist any illegal acts. Employees can also gain other lost benefits, such as damages for retaliation and punitive, or humiliation-based damages.
Contact Us Today
Founding attorney Kristi Favard has been litigating employment cases throughout Washington state since 2003. She focuses her legal practice on representing employees in cases against their employers and insurance companies. Ms. Favard is a passionate advocate for her clients and advocates fiercely for them throughout the entire process. Federal and state laws impose statutes of limitation, or time limits, on when you must file your claim. The sooner you speak to an experienced lawyer, the better. If you have experienced LGBTQ discrimination in your workplace, contact Sapphire Legal, PLLC today to schedule your initial consultation.