Sexual Orientation Harassment -- What to Know


Sexual Orientation Harassment: What to Know

Harassment based on an employee's sexual orientation violates California law.

California Government Code Section 12940(j)(1) makes it an unlawful employment practice “for an employer...or any other person, because of…. sexual orientation to harass an employee, an applicant, an unpaid intern or volunteer, or a person providing services pursuant to a contract.”

Government Code Section 12926(s) defines sexual orientation as “heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality.”

At the heart of a sexual orientation harassment claim is a showing that the actions against the employee were an attack against the employee's sexual orientation.

Sexual orientation harassment most often occurs when employees are mocked, ridiculed, taunted, teased, or subjected to offensive comments because of their sexual orientation.

Examples of Sexual Orientation Harassment:

An employee's co-worker call him a "fag" and purposely bumps into him when he is pouring coffee causing the employee to spill the coffee on himself. The employee's colleagues, including his supervisor, witnessed what happened and laugh. Several days later, the employee returns to his desk to see a picture of a penis drawn on his desk. When the employee complains to the company's Vice President about what occurred, the Vice President responds, "Well, I guess that is what happens when you like men."

A female employee's colleagues mock her for her haircut and tell her she looks "like a man." The employee's colleagues give her the nickname, and refer to her as, "butch." The employee finds a pornographic image in her locker with a note stating, "Is this how you do it with your girlfriend?" The employee complains to her manager about her colleagues' harassment, yet her manager does not investigate her complaint. The harassment continues.

The owner of a grocery store tells his employee to "stop talking like a queer" when he is speaking with customers. The owner additionally tells the employee that if he knew that if he was "gay" he would never have hired him. The owner of the store tells the employee he is not "man enough" to be able to lift the boxes in the back and tells him that maybe "someone like him" should find another job.

No employee in California should ever be harassed because of their sexual orientation. Such conduct is not only against the law, it is wrong.

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