Employees have long been protected from discrimination due to their gender, race, or religion. Recent legislation has added a new category of protection: protection from LGBT discrimination, or discrimination based on sexual preference or transsexual status. When it occurs, LGBT discrimination usually involves an employee being passed over for promotions, sidelined, demoted, penalized, or even fired for lifestyle patterns. It may also include negative treatment that creates a hostile workplace. Proving LGBT discrimination, however, is somewhat trickier than proving other kinds of discrimination, such as race and religion.

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If you’re facing such discrimination, the first step is to document each occurrence. (Of course, if the action is physically harmful or you feel endangered, you should remove yourself immediately.) Watch for a pattern of behavior and see if you can attach specific facts to those incidents. If you identify such a pattern and can demonstrate a discriminatory motivation, then you will need to meet with a company human resources representative to discuss the situation. Usually, you have to exhaust all of your company’s internal resolution mechanisms to resolve the matter before you can take the matter to the state or federal courts. In many situations, this means you will have to confront those who are responsible for the treatment—including your boss or other superiors.

The confrontation itself should be handled professionally. Remember to focus on the facts and try not to be emotional. In the initial confrontation, the focus should be on rectifying the situation and getting answers. Threatening to file a lawsuit is not generally productive, though you should be careful to preserve your right to sue should the situation not be corrected. Ask questions. It may turn out that your case is circumstantial at best. If, for instance, your boss has good reasons for the difference in treatment—for instance, you were not promoted because your coworker had a qualification you lacked—then you won’t have a case for discrimination unless you can identify other negative occurrences that suggest a pattern.

If your discussion with your superiors doesn’t produce a resolution, you exhaust the resolution procedures offered by your company, and you still believe that you have been discriminated against, then you can talk to a lawyer about filing a complaint or pursuing a lawsuit.

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Get started Ask an Employment Lawyer a Question You'll hear back in one business day.