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Sexual Orientation Discrimination

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Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Introduction to Human Resources Management HR 353


Matthew D. Hall
Instructor: Joyce Willhite

Sexual Orientation Discrimination “I believe all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation (King).” This quote by Coretta Scott King is how the workplace should feel about discrimination against those who have a different sexual orientation. Sexual orientation discrimination is a rapidly growing issue in today’s workplaces. Just like sex, age, and race discrimination it is becoming one of the major issues that is present in the workforce. With the growing news media issues like gay marriage and “Don’t ask don’t tell”, this is becoming another one of the areas employers are and have been discriminating against workers. There are many state laws to discourage this type of discrimination, but as of right now there is not a federal law that protects against sexual orientation discrimination. I am sure in time there will be some form of federal protection, but only time will tell. As part of the Lesbian Gay Bi Transgender (LGBT) family, I have seen firsthand how this discrimination has and continues to negatively affected people’s lives. When people are singled out for any reason and discriminated against, it makes me think “are we really in the land of the free?” Just as Ms. King’s quote stated, if we believe in freedom we need to take a stand against the injustice. We should be free to live the life we chose and love who we chose to love without the fear of intolerance. As long as we do the job we are asked to do at or above what is expected, there should not be any issues. But in today’s society, there are. The purpose of this paper is to inform the reader about the different types of discrimination that affects the LGBT family. And the laws that are beginning to be put into place to prevent sexual orientation discrimination.

Domestic Partnership
Currently over 4,000 U.S. companies, including over 160 of the Fortune 500, offer domestic partnership benefits to their employees ( Domestic partnership is defined as a person who is neither married nor related by blood or marriage to the employee; it is the employee's sole spousal equivalent; lives together with the employee in the same residence and intends to do so indefinitely; is responsible with the employee for each other's welfare. A domestic partner relationship may be demonstrated or proven by any three of the following types of documentation: a joint mortgage or lease; designation of the domestic partner as beneficiary for life insurance; designation of the domestic partner as primary beneficiary in the employee's will; domestic partnership agreement; powers of attorney for property and/or health care; and joint ownership of either a motor vehicle, checking account or credit account. You may be asking how is this is a form of discrimination? This is an issue that many same sex couples face because they are not eligible to put their partner on their benefits plan. Benefit plans can include but are not limited to health care, dental, vision, education, and wellness programs. Companies are beginning to change their view on domestic partnerships but there is still many that won’t address it. I personally had an experience with this as my partner’s father passed away recently and I was unable to take bereavement days from my job. Even though my partner and I are classified in a “Domestic Partnership,” my employer is not one of the 4,000 that acknowledge that. There have been many situations where a domestic partner has passed away and the pension has been stopped because they do not recognize that as a union. Individuals have lost their homes and benefits they thought they were expected to receive because the company and the state do not honor same sex unions or partnerships.
“Don’t ask don’t tell” The Federal Government had a policy designed to discriminate against sexual orientation in the branches of U.S. Military. “Don’t ask don’t tell” is the name the policy is known under. The policy stated a member of the armed forces shall be separated from the armed forces under regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Defense if one or more of the following findings is made and approved in accordance with procedures set forth in such regulations: That the member has engaged in, attempted to engage in, or solicited another to engage in a homosexual act or acts unless there are further findings, made and approved in accordance with procedures set forth in such regulations. That the member has stated that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual, or words to that effect, unless there is a further finding, made and approved in accordance with procedures set forth in the regulations, that the member has demonstrated that he or she is not a person who engages in, attempts to engage in, has a propensity to engage in, or intends to engage in homosexual acts. That the member has married or attempted to marry a person known to be of the same biological sex (U.S. Code). In English printed in black and white it outlines how they discriminate against sexual orientation. A person can give up their life for the U.S. Government, but is not free to live the life they so chose or love the person they want to if they are of the same sex. Individuals who have served honorably in the military have been involuntarily separated for sexual orientation discrimination. I personally was involuntarily separated after 10 years of active duty military service for being in a same sex relationship with my partner. There are lots of U.S. solders that are serving in our military today that have had to keep their personal life a secret for fear of being discovered. In light of the changing world, the President of the United States signed into law on December 23, 2010 overturning the “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy. The President was quoted saying: “There will never be a full accounting of the heroism demonstrated by gay Americans in service to this country. Their service has been obscured in history," the nation's first African-American President said. "But at every turn, every crossroads in our past, we know gay Americans fought just as hard, gave just as much to protect this nation and the ideals for which it stands (Wolf, 2010)." The Presidents’ words are very true. How many LGBT solders have fought in the U.S. military and given their lives for the freedoms the U.S. citizens have and they were not able to be free themselves.
State and Federal Law Robert Ingersoll stated: “Give to every human being every right that you claim for yourself.” Qualified, hardworking Americans are denied job opportunities, fired or otherwise discriminated against just because they are LGBT. There is no federal law that consistently protects LGBT individuals from employment discrimination. It remains legal in 29 states to discriminate based on sexual orientation, and in 38 states to do so based on gender identity or expression. As a result, LGBT people face serious discrimination in employment, including being fired, being denied a promotion and experiencing harassment on the job. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was created to help with types of discrimination. State and federal laws – including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) – prohibit discrimination in employment decisions like hiring and firing based on race, religion, color, sex, and national origin ( There have been some local and state laws that Title VII does not protect, one of those being sexual orientation. Title VII however, does protect against same sex sexual harassment. There have been many false cases that the person that filed the same sex sexual harassment complaint has been trying to force out LGBT individuals. With some of those cases there has been no harassment but because of their sexual orientation there was an assumption and they were let go by the employers. Many attorneys have become very good at twisting words around in the employers favor. Because there are not any sexual orientation discrimination rights for LGBT individuals, they often do not have a voice or the resources for assistance. That is why the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has been proposed and will hopefully become law.
Employment Non-Discrimination Act
ENDA simply affords basic employment protection rights to all Americans from discrimination based on irrational prejudice. The bill is closely modeled on existing civil rights laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The bill explicitly prohibits preferential treatment and quotas and does not permit disparate impact suits (HRC). ENDA is greatly needed because currently there is no federal law that consistently protects LGBT individuals from discrimination in the workplace. According to the 2002 General Accounting Office (GAO) report the twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have relatively few complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation. This is because those 12 states and D.C. have passed laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. As of September 2009, 434 (87%) of the Fortune 500 companies had implemented non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, and 207 (41%) had policies that include gender identity (HRC). ENDA is not currently passed, but in the 111th Congressional session it was introduced. When Congress adjourned in December 2010, all bills that had not yet been passed by both chambers and signed into law by the President automatically expired. There are high expectations that ENDA will be reintroduced in the 112th Congressional session.
With the way sexual orientation discrimination has been in the news with the “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy overturning, and the possibility of reintroduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to become law, there appears to be a great change coming for the LGBT community. With more companies recognizing domestic partnerships and allowing benefits for those families, it is becoming a more equal place to work. With what Ms. King was quoted saying, “I believe all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation (King),” the workplace is finally acknowledging the rights of the LGBT employees.

Workplace Fairness is for everyone. (Electronic Version). Sexual-orientation-discrimination. Retreived February 3, 2011, from:
Your employment law resource. (Electronic Version). Retrieved February 5, 2011, from:
Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Retrieved February 6, 2011 from:
King, Coretta. Brainy Quote. (Electronic Version). Retrieved February 23, 2011, from:
U.S. Code. Cornell University Law School (Electronic Version). Retrieved February 23, 2011, from:
Wolfe, Richard, (Dec 23, 2010). 'Don't ask, don't tell' is no more. USA Today. Retrieved February 23, 2011, from:…...

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