5 Steps to Prevent Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace

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What is sexual orientation discrimination?

One’s sexual orientation can and has impacted millions of workers, even extending into outright harassment based on a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation. These orientations include gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, or asexual individuals. In many cases, sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination go hand-in-hand, leading to even worse harassment. 

But how do you know what to look for should discrimination or harassment take place in your workplace? Discrimination and harassment take many forms and can include:

  • Baseless corrective actions and improvement plans
  • Wrongful termination
  • Discrimination during the hiring process
  • Passed by for promotion or special assignments
  • Derogatory remarks, comments, or name-calling
  • Physical altercations


These actions don’t belong in the workplace. In this article, we explore the laws that protect against discrimination and the steps you can take to prevent sexual orientation discrimination in your workplace! 

Federal and State Laws Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Sexual orientation and gender identity are hot topics of debate, but there are protections in place to prevent harassment and discrimination on the basis of sex. These protections include federal laws and Supreme Court rulings but may also include state and local laws. These laws and rulings work to ensure every employee has fair employment and include landmark decisions such as: 

  • The US Supreme Court case of Bostock V. Clayton County –The Supreme Court’s decision upheld that employers cannot make employment decisions using a bias of sexual orientation. In this case, Gerald Bostock was fired from his job with Clayton County, Georgia, after he started participating in a same-sex softball league. Clayton won his case, and the Supreme Court set a precedent for future discrimination.  
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – The EEOC is the authority behind anti-discrimination laws. This federal government institution investigates discrimination claims, provides legal advice, and offers other assistance to individuals who file a charge of discrimination against an employer. 
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Originally signed into law in 1964 and updated in 1992, Title VII protects against employment discrimination based on protected statuses, like age, national origin, race, sexual orientation, and religion. Title VII is the cornerstone legislation covering millions across the country. 
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 – The Equal Pay Act is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act and pertains to wages, protecting them based on gender. Despite being a long-standing piece of legislation, a significant portion of the public and private sector experience wage disparity between men and women. However, individuals can present their case using the Equal Pay Act should they experience a pay gap. 

In addition to federal protections, more than half of the US and the District of Columbia have state laws that further protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Plus, these anti-discrimination laws cover not only federal employees but also private employers, which means everyone has a human right to fair employment. 

5 Steps to Prevent Workplace Discrimination

Preventing workplace discrimination benefits everyone. Your inclusive culture can bring about better retention rates, higher employee engagement, and more profits. While there are many forms of discrimination, like using slurs, making inappropriate jokes, or using homophobic language, you must work with your teams to prevent discriminatory actions and behaviors. Here’s how! 

1. Establish workplace policies that prohibit discrimination.

Protecting your employee’s rights starts with a culture shift. To eliminate sex discrimination in your workplace, start by establishing workplace policies and procedures that take aim at discriminatory practices. 

By implementing a framework that prohibits discrimination, you provide a basis from which you can perform corrective action. These policies make it clear that anyone who discriminates based on gender identity or sexual orientation will receive punishment. Plus, they help prevent hostile work environments from forming.  

2. Require anti-discrimination training.

Crafting an inclusive workplace starts during the hiring and onboarding process, which is the perfect time for every employee to experience anti-discrimination or cultural competence training. These training pieces focus on treating others equally, regardless of their sexual background, like having a same-sex partner or transgender people. 

Anti-discrimination training teaches individuals about unconscious biases, sexual harassment, and workplace discrimination. All employees from the highest levels to the frontline should undergo anti-discrimination training, and frequent follow-ups or refreshers help maintain a workplace free of discrimination. 

3. Open the door of communication for transitioning employees.

Businesses adapt to changing personnel situations frequently when employees get married or have a child. It’s only fair that transgender employees receive the same support. That support includes how to address changes the employee might request, such as names and pronouns. You can make employees feel included by supporting transitioning employees with updates to corporate reporting and how to share the changes with colleagues. 

Minor changes to the entire workplace can make everyone feel more included. An example could be to have pronouns in email signatures, which gives employees freedom of identity. 

4. Use gender-neutral terminology.

Gender neutrality is an excellent way to eliminate sexual orientation discrimination. When your teams remove words like “manpower,” “salesman,” and “chairman” from their vocabularies, they open the door for seeing everyone as equally capable. Instead, teams should use terms like “workforce,” “salesperson,” and “chairperson,” which embodies equality. 

In addition to simple vocabulary shifts, there are several other aspects of the office that you can update to be gender-neutral. For example, you could modify restrooms to be gender-neutral or designate a new bathroom for gender-neutral individuals. These changes show that you are creating a safe space for employees, which can help with retention and recruiting. 

5. Develop a clear plan to investigate discrimination claims.

Accusations of discrimination are grave, and federal courts don’t take kindly to organizations that allow discrimination to propagate. That’s why it’s vital that you have an investigation plan in place with your human resources department to protect your employees and your business

Internal investigations, along with employee suspensions, interviews, and video footage, are far less intrusive than an EEOC investigation and can prevent costly lawsuits. By having a robust plan in place, you can set the standard for disciplinary actions for your team, and the orientation process is the perfect time to detail how these investigations work. Hence, employees feel empowered to support the process. 

Take a Stand Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination with Coach Diversity Institute

Unfortunately, discrimination is still an issue for millions of people. The pain they experience through harassment can make the Department of Labor, employment laws, and executive orders feel useless. That’s why it’s up to everyone to create an environment free from sexual orientation discrimination. A few steps, like requiring anti-discrimination training and gender-neutral terminology, can help prevent harmful discrimination from taking hold. 

Are you having a hard time with sexual orientation training? Coach Diversity’s LGBTQ training program is a robust solution to discrimination training with tools that help businesses, non-profits, and government agencies prevent discrimination. Get started today to find out how you can become a diversity coach and make a difference in your organization!