Here in Houston, when someone sues an employer for violating anti-discrimination laws, the lawsuit will likely include allegations of discrimination on the basis of one of the following things: race, national origin, sex, disability, pregnancy, age or religion. Those are the types of discrimination that are outlawed by federal employment law. Unfortunately, there are other types of discrimination that are not expressly outlawed by the federal government. One of these is employment on the basis of one’s sexual orientation.
Gay rights advocates recently began calling on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order to ban federal contractors from sexual orientation discrimination in the aftermath of the president’s announcement of his support for gay rights during his inauguration speech.
It is not known whether Obama or Congress will choose to amend federal discrimination law by banning discrimination based on sexual orientation any time soon. Many states have taken it upon themselves to ban this type of discrimination, but Texas has yet to do so.
Employers and employees should note that although sexual orientation is not a protected class under state or federal employment law, in many cases discrimination or harassment against gay or lesbian applicants or workers may still be illegal. This is because adverse actions on the basis of sexual orientation may fall under the umbrella of other laws–such as sexual harassment, defamation, wrongful termination, retaliation or interference with an employment contract. Therefore, those who feel they are experiencing discrimination because of their sexual orientation here in Texas may be wise to seek legal counsel to determine whether any legal remedies are available.
Source: Associated Press, “Gay rights groups seek order on employer bias,” Sam Hananel, Jan. 24, 2013