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Gay and Lesbian Rights at Work

By: Emma Jones - Updated: 13 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Gay Lesbian Discrimination Work Rights

As a society we are become more understanding and accepting about people’s sexual orientations and personal choices. However, not everybody feels this way and gay and lesbian people still face discrimination. It is illegal to discriminate against anyone because of their sexuality and you should not have to put up with this from your employer or anyone in your workplace.

Direct Discrimination

An employer is directly discriminating against your sexuality if they treat you differently because you are gay or lesbian or because they think that you are. For example, if they offer benefits to unmarried same-sex partners, such as being able to drive company cars, but refuse to give your partner the same rights. This also includes any discrimination that is found in job applications – for example, you cannot be made to state your sexual orientation.

Indirect Discrimination

Indirect discrimination is more difficult to prove but just as unfair and illegal. Indirect discrimination is when your company does something that affects you detrimentally because of your sexual orientation. For example, organising a conference in a country where being gay is illegal, when they there is no good reason to do so. If you feel you are being treated unfairly because of your sexuality then you need to speak out.

Civil Partnership Rights

Since civil partnership laws came into being in 2005, same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as married couples of almost everything. This applies to work benefits. Therefore, your boss must include your partner in any schemes that he would a married couple. These include things such as partners receiving company pension schemes if you pass away.

Gay & Lesbian Harassment

Often gay and lesbians find themselves being treated badly in the workplace but without any specific incidents of discrimination. So it may be snide comments from colleagues or distasteful jokes. This behaviour is harassment and is not permissible. If a colleague has a problem with your sexual orientation because of their religion, they cannot exercise these opinions. In the same way that they have protection over their right to their religion you have equal protection to feel happy and safe at work.

Sticking Up For Your Rights

If you think that you have been discriminated against in anyway by an employer or potential employer then you have every right to make a complaint. The first step is to make a formal complaint to your line manager or boss with specific examples of the discrimination. If the internal system does not help you then consider going to a union who will be able to offer you advice and help you fight your case or ultimately, take the company to an employment tribunal.

Discrimination in the work place is not allowed whether it is because of your gender, race or sexual orientation. You do not need to be open about being gay, but if you employer knows or believes that you are, and uses it to discriminate against you then it is illegal. Whether this discrimination is direct, indirect or in the form of harassment, you have he right to protection. Make a formal complaint within the company but if this doesn’t do anything then you may want to take it further by contacting your union or taking it to an employment tribunal.

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