According to CBS News , a recent CareerBuilder study revealed that “about four out of 10 LGBTQ workers report feeling bullied at work…The majority of those who said they were bullied said it was by one person, while about 13 percent said it happened in a group setting.”

Since sexual harassment in the workplace has always been associated with unwelcome male/female conduct, workplace rights in the LGBTQ community have been a grey area. But as the community continues to gain the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts, people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are now protected from unwelcome sexual advances in their place of work. According to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act or FEHA, “people who are of a specific sexual orientation are protected under the law, thus making LGBTQ harassment illegal not only in the workplace, but also anywhere else in the state.” This means that any person of a different sexual orientation who is discriminated against based on their sexuality or sexual assaulted at work has the right to press charges according to new employment laws.

To ensure that harassment is taken seriously in your workplace, here are examples of incidents that are considered harassment and thus qualify for protection under these new laws:

  1. Retaliation for asserting legal rights in the workplace
  2. Hiring, firing, demoting or laying off a worker because of his/her sexual orientation
  3. Failure to pay LGBTQ workers because of their sexual orientation
  4. Eliminating benefits based on sex
  5. Harassing workers on being too masculine or feminine
  6. Using intimidation tactics that create a hostile work environment

While there isn’t one magical remedy to LGBTQ discrimination, specific initiatives can be implemented in the workplace that make a difference.

Trainings: Discrimination can occur unintentionally. Providing trainings for employees to help them gain understanding and empathy can be a great resource for your business. Activities that examine stereotypes, for example, can create awareness of the misconceptions about the LGBTQ community. Teaching employees about hurtful language, how to intervene if discrimination happens and how to provide support to the community.

Supporting Organization: Another great way to encourage tolerance and acceptance is by supporting LGBTQ support groups and/or LGBTQ employee resource groups.  This will communicate to your corporation that diversity is a priority and discrimination isn’t an organizational value. It will also allow employees to find community, support and reassurance within their workplace.

Update Policies: Take the time to update harassment training and policies in your employee handbooks or resources, to include gender identity and enforce harassment policies for all employees regardless of sexual orientation.

Working on an inclusive work environment? Need to create diversity training programs? Contact VertiSource HR® today and our team of experts can help! Call 855.565.VSHR (8747) or email us at