LGBTQ individuals in the workplace often face discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination and other mistreatment due to their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.  California law protects all individuals, including LGBTQ employees, and requires that they are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace.  If you’ve been the victim of homophobic or insensitive comments, you may have a legal claim against your employer under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.


Discrimination occurs when an employee is treated less favorably because of his or her sexual orientation.  California law bars discrimination against an employee because he or she is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.  Employees who do not meet someone else’s expectation of masculinity or femininity are also protected under California law.  Specifically, individuals can take comfort knowing that their gender identity and gender expression are protected qualities in the Golden State.

Discrimination occurs when an individual is denied a raise, demoted, fired, laid off or otherwise treated unfairly because of a protected characteristic.  When an individual does not receive the same rights, benefits and treatment as a straight employee simply because that person is LGBTQ, discrimination has occurred and the company is liable for damages.


It is also illegal under California law for employers, supervisors and coworkers to harass an employee because he or she is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender or due to an individual’s gender identity or gender expression.  Sexual harassment based these characteristics is also unlawful.  Employees have a right to be free from negative, inappropriate or unwanted statements or treatment based on of their sexual orientation, sex, gender or marital status.  When these statements make it hostile for an individual to be a productive member of the workforce, California law allows for the employee to file a claim to enforce their rights.


Companies are required to take reasonable steps to prevent retaliation, discrimination and harassment in the workplace.  Complaints must be taken seriously, investigated and resolved.  Failure to do so can results in additional liability for the employer if an employee prevails on his or her claim under California law.


In San Diego and throughout California, LGBTQ individuals are protected from unlawful treatment in the workplace if the conduct is based on one or more protected characteristics. Within the context of gender issues, discrimination and harassment can be subtle and involve numerous protected characteristics:

  • Race, skin color, ethnic ancestry or national origin
  • Religious affiliation, beliefs and creed
  • Age (over 40)
  • Mental or physical disability
  • Pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or related medical conditions
  • Sex, gender, gender identity or gender expression
  • Sexual orientation
  • Medical condition
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Military and veteran status

For example, harassment occurs if a coworker makes comments based on his or her preconceived notions about how a Hispanic, African American, Asian American or Caucasian person should act with respect to members of the same or opposite sex.  People often make comments about one’s religious beliefs and how those pertain to a person’s romantic life or same sex marriage.  Requests for time off to care for an adopted child can also trigger discrimination issues.  Transgender people often face mistreatment due to accommodations and leaves and medical conditions.  These are a few examples of unlawful employment actions that may serve as the basis for your claim.


Employees or applicants who are treated unlawfully based on their LGBTQ status may recover a significant damages and other remedies under the Fair Employment and Housing Act:

  • Back pay (for lost earnings)
  • Front pay (for future lost earnings)
  • Lost bonuses and commissions
  • Lost benefits (dental, medical, vision, etc.)
  • Lost pensions and retirement earnings
  • Hiring and reinstatement
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Medical expenses
  • Policy changes
  • Emotional distress damages
  • Punitive damages
  • Attorney’s fees and costs
  • Interest
  • Injunctive relief


If you believe you’ve been wrongfully terminated or treated unfairly because you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, contact us today to enforce your rights.  As a San Diego law firm, we specialize in sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression-related issues in the workplace.