Gay Discrimination in the Workplace

Gay people are those whose sexual orientation is different from what is considered the norm, heterosexuality. According to, they are people who are attracted to other people of the same sex. In some instances, it happens that certain people may be discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of their sexuality. This is referred to as homophobia. The problem is that some people may find it hard to accept their colleagues in the workplace just because they happen to like people who are the same sex as them. (“Am I gay?”)

Discrimination in the workplace can take different forms. Gay people being a group that can be said to be disadvantaged have been the victims of discrimination for some time. In some instances, it could be that the gay people in the workplace may be dismissed from their place of work without any just reason. In other instances, they may also be abused and excluded from office and organizational activities. However, the most common form of discrimination directed at gay people is often ridicule and belittling. Moreover, gay people are also the victims of homophobic jokes. Accordingly, much of the violence committed against gay people is usually carried out by their work colleagues as opposed to people strangers. (“Gay & Lesbian Rights lobby”) It then would not be surprising that gay people are often not hired by potential employers on the basis of their sexual orientation. Also, they have often been sidestepped when it came to promotions.

Thus, gay people are often subjected to three kinds of discrimination in the workplace. The first is direct discrimination. Indirect discrimination, gay people are often denied the same rights and equal treatment that is accorded to their straight counterparts. For instance, it would be ok if straight people openly held hands while at work but it would not be ok for gay people to do so. Secondly is indirect discrimination. In certain instances, an employer may choose to offer a promotion to the straight employee overlooking the gay employee not because they are not qualified enough but just because they are of a different sexual orientation. Third and lastly is harassment. Some employers and even work colleagues may take it upon themselves to make the lives of gay people unbearable through abuses, name-calling, and even ridicule. (“Am I gay?”) Based on the three categories of discrimination it would then be correct to argue that many gay people are locked out of gainful employment and other opportunities through which they could better themselves. Some employers may not be so keen as to hire someone of a different sexual orientation. The consequence of this is that many gay people may be unemployed. (“Gay & Lesbians Rights lobby”)

According to Stachelber and Sheldon, gay people were at some point indeed discriminated against in the workplace for the simple reason that in some 38 states in the United States it was regarded as illegal to fire an employee on the basis of their sexual orientation. Before the Employment No Discrimination Act (ENDA) was formulated in the United States, for instance, it would be correct that most employers were protected by law meaning they could fire and/or mistreat their gay employees if they so wished. Consequently, many gay people were not only denied employment but even those who were already in some kind of gainful employment were denied promotions. Moreover, they also suffered harassment at the hands of their employers and their colleagues at work. There was nothing to protect gay people from discrimination. They had to put up with it in the hope that at some point it would not go on anymore. However, with the law in place, discrimination against gay people would be illegal. Moreover, gay people would also be treated fairly and equally to other people in the workplace setting. They would be accorded not only the same treatment but also the same opportunities, sexual orientation notwithstanding.

In 2003, the Employment equality (sexual orientation) regulations were enforced in the United Kingdom. On the other hand, ENDA (Employment No Discrimination Act) in the United States was passed by Congress in 2007. (Ritter 1) Consequently, sexual orientation was added to the list of such protected groups as race, religion, and disability and it became illegal to discriminate against any person on the basis of their sexual orientation. Employers were then expected to adhere to the laws and regulations. Without such kind of protection to protect gay people from discrimination, it is evident that the vice was likely to continue.

Therefore, it would be correct to say that gay people are not discriminated against in the workplace as much as before. With widespread activism and awareness of the rights of gay people, the result has been that regulations have been put in place. Gay people are more aware of their own rights. This means that they are more likely to openly speak out in instances where discrimination may occur. (Voorhis and Wagner 1) As per the regulations set out, no person should be subjected to direct discrimination. This is to say that employees and potential employees should not in any way be treated any differently from their counterparts just because they have a different sexual orientation. Concurrently, no person should be dismissed from work without just cause, neither should they be denied employment and/or a promotion. (Stachelberg and Sheldon)

All employers are expected to apply the same standards in the selection of their employees. There should not be different standards that may in one way or another result in making the people of a particular sexual orientation disadvantaged. During the processes of recruitment and hiring, both straight and gay people should be subjected to equal treatment. Moreover, the regulations also restrict behavior that can in any way be considered offensive and/or distressing to gay people. Harassment of gay people also becomes illegal. It is expected that employers should include the regulations in their policies. This is important because then the employer and the employees can be held responsible for their actions while at the workplace. (“Sexual orientation in the workplace”) The ramification of this is that employers have had to conduct training for all their employees on what their policies say with regards to discrimination in the workplace especially as pertaining to people who have a different kind of sexual orientation.

Discrimination against gay people in the workplace can be considered to be a thing of the past. The introduction of the laws and regulations that have outlawed discrimination of employees and colleagues on the basis of their sexual orientation has been a testament to this. However, it may be important to note that some people (colleagues) and employers may still be holding on to the stereotypes. The end result of this is that they will still continue to discriminate against others based on their sexual orientation. It would be correct to point out that when people hold on to stereotypes they would only want to associate with other people who they consider to be ‘like’ them which means that those who are ‘unlike’ them may suffer discrimination at their hands. They may not be hired and may be fired for no good reason at all. (“Am I gay?”)

With the laws and regulations in place, gay people can then seek legal redress for wrongful dismissal or even for denied equal opportunities that may have been accorded to people who are regarded as straight. Thus, in order to avoid lawsuits, employers not only have to inform themselves of what is right according to the laws of the land. Moreover, they have to carry out seminars and training forums during which they educate other employees on their organizational policies with regard to discrimination (Ritter, p. 1).

To discriminate against someone is to deny that someone an opportunity based on age, race, or even sexuality. Certain groups in society have faced discrimination either on the basis of their age, race, disability, and even sex. Concurrently, gay people have for a long time been discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation. Mostly, the people who carry out acts of discrimination against gay people are termed homophobic. They are usually straight or can be defined as heterosexual males and females. They shun and/or ridicule gay people because they are different from them. It was therefore not uncommon to find an employer who would deny a person the chance to be gainfully employed just because they were of a different sexual orientation. In other instances, the employers would not subject potential gay employees to the same standards that straight employees would. Still, it was not just the employers who carried out the acts of discrimination. Even in the workplace setting, colleagues and co-workers also discriminated against their gay co-workers. Co-worker discrimination takes the form of name-calling, ridicule or even harassment. In most instances, such activities of harassment and ridicule are used to serve the purposes of making life unbearable for gay people in the hope that they might leave and ‘untainted the workplace. Apart from these activities, it is also not uncommon to find gay people who may have been denied access to services just because their sexual orientation is different. Sometimes, gay people may not be offered places in schools. Discrimination is a vice that stops gay people from bettering themselves. However, as they have become more aware of their rights and with laws such as ENDA (Employment No Discrimination Act) in place. This can be considered to be a thing of the past. Gay people have as much right as their straight counterparts to be hired and not be fired without good reason. Whenever they may feel they have been discriminated they are free to seek legal redress. Nonetheless, discrimination against gay people will only be put to an end in the workplace only if employers adopt and enforce the necessary regulations as well as educate their employees on the proper codes of conduct (no discrimination).


  1. ‘Am I gay?’ 2008. Avert. Web.
  2. “Workplace discrimination”. N.d.  2004. Gay and lesbian rights lobby.
  3. Ritter, Bob. ‘Collision of religious and gay rights in the workplace’. The Humanist. 2008, vol 68.
  4. “Sexual orientation in the workplace: A guide for employers and employees”. N.d. 2005. Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.
  5. Stachelberg, Winnie & Sheldon, Louis. ‘Should congress expand federal protection of gays in the workplace? 2002. Web
  6. Voorhis, Rebecca & Wagner, Marion. ‘Coverage of gay and lesbian subject matter in social work journals’. Journal of Social work education. vol 37. 2001.