An openly gay teacher has filed an employment lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School district alleging discrimination.
According to a CBS Los Angeles news report, Cathy Figel says she no longer teaches because she doesn’t feel safe any more.
She alleged in the lawsuit that she was constantly exposed to anti-gay language in the workplace. She had anti-gay graffiti scrawled in her work area.
Her car was vandalized and she was even physically assaulted by a student, Figel said.
She is now retired, but taught physical education at Marina del Rey Middle School for 13 years. The school district, she said, failed to investigate the incidents or even take her complaints seriously.
Figel said she did not file the lawsuit for money, but because she believes a change in the school system will protect the lives of students or other teachers who may be gay.
The school district issued a statement saying that it does not agree with Figel’s allegations and will defend the suit.
Sexual Orientation Discrimination
The State of California does provide protection against workplace discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. California Government Code sections 12920, 21940 and 12949 have safeguards to protect the rights of LGBTQ individuals.
The law prohibits employers from discriminating an employee or job applicant on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, sex, age or sexual orientation. That said, there are currently no federal laws that protect individuals against sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.
Employment discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity can be overt or subtle. For the action to amount to discrimination, the case must involve an adverse employment action taken because the employee was gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual or transgender.
Protecting Your Rights
Examples of discriminatory actions by an employer might include failing to hire or firing an individual because he or she is gay; failing to promote an employee because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity; promoting less qualified employees who are not gay or lesbian; and paying an LGBTQ employee less than other employees who are performing the same type of work.
In addition to discrimination, California law also protects employees from a hostile work environment that includes threats, abusive behavior or repeated, offensive jokes related to their sexual orientation.
If you or a loved one has been discriminated against or harassed in the workplace due to your sexual orientation, please contact an experienced California employment attorney to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.