Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination Article

Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits covered employers of more than 15 employees from discriminating against employees and applicants because of sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI) with regard to hiring, firing, compensation, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment.

The unfavorable treatment of an individual because of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is a form of sex discrimination. Sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination also includes harassment and sexual assault.  Sexual orientation refers to an attraction to members of the same sex, opposite sex, somewhere in between, or none at all. Gender identity refers to one’s self-identification as a male, female, somewhere in between, or no gender at all.  Discrimination may also occur then the victim and the perpetrator are both of the same SOGI.

Examples of Discrimination

  • Treating an employee unfavorably due to SOGI
  • Allowing an employee’s SOGI to influence promotions, evaluations, or discipline
  • Denying benefits to same sex spouses, while offering benefits to spouses of the opposite sex
  • Harassing an employee due to SOGI
  • Firing an employee due to gender transition
  • Firing an employee because of SOGI

Hostile Work Environment (Harassment)

Title VII also prohibits the harassment of an employee due to sexual orientation and gender identity.  Harassment is the unwelcome treatment of an employee due to SOGI that is frequent or severe enough to alter working conditions and create a demeaning or abusive atmosphere (hostile work environment).  It is critical that you notify management of the harassment.  If possible, do so in writing and save a copy for documentation.  Once an employer knows about the harassment, it is obligated to take effective action to stop it.

This unlawful conduct may include the use of slurs or name-calling, workplace graffiti, threats, inappropriate jokes or gestures, isolation, exclusion, work interference, undermining of authority, humiliation, or other mistreatment.  The harasser may be a supervisor, co-worker, contractor, or client.  The harasser may be of the same SOGI as well.


It is also unlawful to punish an employee for complaining to the employer about being discriminated against due to sexual orientation or gender identity or opposing such discrimination against another employee.  Title VII further prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for filing an EEOC discrimination charge, testifying or participating in an investigation about discrimination, assisting in an EEOC proceeding or lawsuit, or opposing employment practices that an employee reasonably believes discriminate against another individual in violation of the law.

Retaliation includes adverse actions such as demotions, disciplinary actions, terminations, and other forms of punishment that tend to dissuade employees from complaining about discrimination.  For more information about legally protected activities and examples of unlawful retaliation, see Retaliation page.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, private sector employees must file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 calendar days of a discriminatory action. You will forfeit important legal rights if you do not file a timely charge with the EEOC. If you’ve already missed a deadline, call to discuss your options.

If you’ve been subjected to sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination, contact Rich Daugherty.  Whether your employment has been wrongfully terminated, you’re in fear of losing your job unlawfully, or you’re stuck in an untenable situation, contact Rich.

In addition to litigating cases, Rich negotiates confidential severance agreements and executive exit agreements favorable to his clients.

Rich offers a one-on-one relationship with his clients. He will stand by your side every step of the way to resolve your case fairly.

Rich represents clients from across North Carolina, including Raleigh, Durham, Wilmington, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, and more. He is available to meet with prospective clients outside of Chapel Hill when circumstances permit. Evening appointments are also available.

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