Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation discrimination occurs when an employee is treated differently or harassed because of the employees real or perceived sexual orientation. This orientation may be because the employee is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight (heterosexual). Sexual orientation discrimination is illegal in the workplace in Illinois. While there is no federal law that prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in private employment, an executive order specifically outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal government.

The Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") investigates discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Illinois Human Rights Act is the law that bans sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination and it is located here and referred to as the act. According to the Director of IDHR Rocco Claps, a snapshot of fiscal year ‘09 ( from July ‘08 to today ) , shows there has been 89 sexual-orientation charges and, of those, 11 are related to gender identity, 2 based on bisexual, 67 on homosexuality, 2 on heterosexuality and 3 based on perceived orientation. Perceived orientation occurs in the following way. If a heterosexual male were thought to be gay and treated different because of how he is perceived, he could have a sexual orientation lawsuit based on this perception.

In Illinois, the IDHR investigates charges of sexual harassment, as well as sexual-orientation. Known as Public Act 093-1078 the new act makes it is unlawful in Illinois to discrimination on the basis of sex, age, race, gender sexual harassment, sexual orientation, and religion. The other basis of discrimination besides employment include real-estate transactions; public accommodations; sexual harassment in higher education; and financial credit. In short this means you can't be singled out in any facet of your life because of your sexual orientation if you live in Illinois.

According to the director the average complaint is completed within 320 days. By law the IDHR is required to process a claim in 365 days. Additionally, about 33 percent of IDHR charges are settled within the agency.

The United State Supreme Court addressed the issue of sexual orientation in the workplace in Romer v. Evans. In that case the Court struck down a state constitutional amendment which both overturned local ordinances prohibiting discrimination against homosexuals, lesbians or bisexuals, and prohibited any state or local governmental action to either remedy discrimination or to grant preferences based on sexual orientation.

There are still many people in the workplace that are homophobic and have ideas that run contrary to the law regarding the sexual orientation of others. Many times it takes an aggressive attorney to fight for your rights and obtain a just settlement. I have many cases involving sexual orientation and fight hard for my clients.

Chicago is seeing a rise in the number of sexual orientation claims filed by employees. As the job market gets tighter, employers are cutting back on staff and being more aggressive with people at work who complain about legitimate concerns. The lack of staff makes it harder for companies to provide oversight of their managers and some of these managers don't treat people as they should. This combination is resulting in more sexual orientation claims being filed by my office in Chicago and surrounding areas.

Some of the areas in Chicago that seem to have the most trouble with sexual orientation laws are the food and beverage industry and fast-food industry. This may be the result of a lack of supervision over the workforce. It is imperative that you document any nasty comments you receive while working. Also remember that if you get turned down for a promotion or have any other negative job action taken against you because of your sexual orientation--you can file a discrimination complaint with the IDHR.

There are many reasons why people are discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. It is very important to realize there are protections available to you and that it is imperative to get an attorney involved early in the process to protect your rights. I never charge for discussing your case.

Here is an example of what is discrimination based on sexual orientation in Chicago is if you are a male. Your manager keeps calling you a fag and asks you if you and your boyfriend had hot sex last night. Your manager keeps asking you if you are the man or woman in the relationship? Your manager tells you to go over and sit by the other woman when you have a work meeting. Your manager changes your name to a female name, so instead of calling you Bob he calls you Betty. All of this creates a hostile work environment and is illegal in Illinois.

If you believe you have been discriminated as a result of your sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation please contact attorney Peter LaSorsa at 312-505-5038 or 312-505-5038 anytime to discuss your case. You can also email Pete at plasorsa@gmail.com

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