Sexual orientation discrimination refers to harassment or different treatment based on someone’s perceived or actual gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or heterosexual orientation.
Although many companies and certain states have specific policies against sexual orientation discrimination, many LGBT workers say they have been harassed, discriminated against or fired because of their sexual orientation.
LGBT workers in Oklahoma
About 62,000 LGBT workers in Oklahoma are not explicitly protected from discrimination under state or federal laws, according to the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA Law.
In addition, Census data shows that wages for men in same-sex relationships in Oklahoma are 23 percent lower than men in traditional relationships.
The organization cites seven cities in Oklahoma that do prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in public sector employment. Those cities are Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Del City, Altus, McAlester, Vinita and Miami. However, no location bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in the private sector, according to the Williams Institute. That leaves about 99 percent of Oklahoma workers without any protection.
However, 68 percent of Oklahomans believe federal law should ban employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Oklahomans have faced discrimination
Even so, discrimination persists. More than 1 in 5 LGBT workers have reported they were treated unfairly by an employer, according to the Pew Research Center.
For example, a teacher who was moving to Oklahoma for a job in 2009 suddenly lost his contract. The school district offered the teacher a one-year contract and had a non-discrimination policy, which prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, the teacher said when the school discovered he was gay, the contract was canceled. A subsequent trial dismissed the suit in favor of the school, but an appellate court overturned that decision.
Other similar cases have been filed regarding discrimination against LGBT workers in Oklahoma. In 2008, a police officer transitioned from male to female. She alleged severe harassment from the department and said the department insisted she undergo psychological evaluations. She also claimed she was transferred to a position she considered “unfavorable.”
Seek help if you’ve faced discrimination
So can Oklahoma employers make hiring decisions based on sexual identity? That depends.
If the employer is a federal contractor or part of the federal government, then discrimination isn’t allowed. A recent presidential executive order added sexual orientation and gender identity as characteristics protected from discrimination by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This amendment also has very limited exemptions for religious organizations that are hiring ministers or giving employment preferences to individuals of a particular religion.
Everyone deserves to be treated fairly in the workplace. If you have been discriminated against based on your sexual orientation or gender identity, consult with an employment lawyer at Laird Hammons Laird to consider what options are open to you.