Our Lesbian Same-Sex Articles
Sexuality Harassment - Protected by the
Law or Not?
Whether you are "out" at work or not, employers
and fellow colleagues can harass, discriminate, and victimize you just because
you are (or they think you are), gay; lesbian; bisexual; or transgender.
They will openly call you "dyke", "lesbo" and other such terms that we consider
being derogatory when they are spouted from heterosexual peoples lips. They
may even stretch as far as threatening you or running a hate campaign against
you. It's sad to think that people will automatically consider us less than
worthy, or out of the ordinary, just because we have same sex relationships
- but such discrimination and harassment does exist in the workplace, no
matter where you live or what legal protection there is in place.
Focus On the USA Laws
As always, USA laws to protect lesbians against
sexuality harassment vary from state to state and often contain loopholes
or get outs that prevent cases from being won. Some major cases have been
won on the grounds that sexual harassment violates title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964; others have been won on the grounds that Equal Opportunities
Laws protect employees from sexuality discrimination. However, it is not
cut and dry and companies like Lambda Law bring about unique cases and often
fight for years to win.
As it stands at the moment only 17 States, the
latest being Illinois, have laws that provide protection for gay and lesbian
people against discrimination in the workplace. Elsewhere, there is no legal
recourse for harassment and people can be fired just because they are a lesbian.
It seems as though the USA has a long way to go to bring about equality in
the workplace. Women are protected, as are religions, races, and disabilities
- so we can only hope that in time every State will see the light and protect
gay and lesbian employees, too.
Focus On the UK Laws
Once again, lesbians in the UK have far better
protection than lesbians in the USA. If you live in the UK you will be pleased
to know that sexual orientation discrimination laws were brought into effect
on 1st December which literally bans discrimination because of your
sexuality. Since that time successful cases have been brought before the
courts where claimants have sued their employers for tens of thousands of
pounds because they were being victimized, harassed, or name called because
of their sexuality. This really is a heads up to companies in the UK that
such discrimination will not be accepted. Unfortunately, such rulings do
not trickle down, or are not digested by all members of staff.
What Can You Do If You Are Being Harassed?
Sexuality harassment or discrimination may be
considered a laugh or a joke by the instigators but to you, the victim, it
can be harrowing. In extreme cases, harassment can lead to suicidal thoughts,
or actual attempts at suicide. It the least it can affect your quality of
work, make you hate coming to work, make you feel depressed and even make
you consider leaving your job just to get away from the harassers or
discriminators. However, this should always be your last resort; why should
you let people force you to leave when you have just as much right as them
to be there. You were hired because your employer saw the potential in you
as a worker and your sexuality should not be an issue.
There are a few things you can do to try and
protect yourself from sexuality harassment and discrimination:
Them - You could try ignoring the people who are harassing you. If you show
them that you are strong enough and mature enough to rise above their often
childish and stupid antics they may get bored and the insults may peter out.
Ask to Stop - If this tactic does not work then try
asking them to stop. If you explain to them that being called a "dyke" or
being continually harassed just because you have relationships with women
hurts you and offends you they may realize the error of their ways and stop.
Keep a Log - If the offenders
persist it is important to try and keep a log of dates, times and what was
said or what event takes place. If you need to make a company complaint,
or if it eventually results in a court case, then you will have to have a
log of evidence - and sometimes it can be difficult for you to remember exact
dates, times, and comments months after the events took place. Keep a scribble
pad, or notebook, in your desk or locker and make detailed
- Do not be afraid to report the incidents of discrimination, victimization,
or harassment to your immediate boss. If they have any kind of compassion
they will deal with the offenders and reprimand them for their behavior.
If you feel that you are not getting any results, then do not be afraid to
go to higher management, the human resources department or even contact your
Union representatives. Additionally, you should also keep a record of the
times you have reported incidents to your immediate boss, or other authoritative
Seek Legal Advice - If all else fails, and you are
still being harassed, then it is time to seek legal advice. Search for a
gay and lesbian lawyer, or solicitor, that will have empathy for your case.
In the US you could contact the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association
or Lambada Legal for sound and worthwhile advice. In the UK you can contact
the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association.
one thing you should never do is let it slide in the belief that nothing
will be done to help you. If your employer won't help protect you from workplace
harassment then a legal representative who is sympathetic to your cause will.
We should not let other human beings think that they can get away with harassing
or victimizing us at work just because we are lesbians. You never know, yours
could be the next landmark
following is a poem taken from our eBook,
Big eBook of Gay and Lesbian
Poetry. It speaks for
That's what the sign says when you drive through
They say one out of every ten people is gay
That makes for 500 here
Which ones are they?
I think I have a pretty good idea
In the deli I heard the other boys taunting
Do you know him?
I heard they stripped him in the locker
That is not all they stripped of him
Any self worth that he had ended up in the
Where they pushed him into
Day after day after day
He never made it to graduation
Not even through the tenth grade