LGBTQ+ Rights In the Workplace

 

LGBTQ+ Employment Rights / Gender Orientation Discrimination

Navigating the workplace as an LGBTQ+ individual can present significant challenges, from being denied a job or promotion based on sexual orientation to facing harassment and unequal treatment on the job. Such discriminatory practices foster a hostile environment and legal complications for LGBTQ+ employees.

At McHugh Law, we are committed to protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals in the workplace. Our experienced employment law attorneys in Vancouver, Washington, are dedicated to ensuring that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, is treated with respect and fairness at work. For transgender or gender identity workplace issues, please click this page to learn more.

Common Issues LGBTQ+ Employees Face At Work

LGBTQ+ employees often encounter a variety of workplace challenges, such as discrimination, harassment, denial of benefits, unequal pay, and privacy violations. These issues can create a hostile work environment and hinder professional growth. At McHugh Law, we are dedicated to advocating for the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, promoting inclusive workplace policies, and ensuring legal protections are upheld. Our goal is to secure fair treatment and equal opportunities for all LGBTQ+ employees, helping them thrive in their careers without fear of prejudice or injustice.

Harassment and Bullying

LGBTQ+ employees may experience harassment, bullying, or verbal abuse from coworkers, supervisors, or clients based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This mistreatment can create a hostile work environment and severely impact an individual’s mental health and well-being.

Unequal Pay and Benefits

LGBTQ+ employees may face pay discrimination or be denied equal access to benefits. This includes receiving lower wages than heterosexual or cisgender colleagues for the same work or being denied benefits that are offered to other employees, such as health insurance for a same-sex spouse.

Retaliation for Complaints

LGBTQ+ employees who report discrimination or harassment may face retaliation from their employers. This can include demotion, further harassment, reduction in hours, or other adverse actions taken in response to the employee’s complaint.

Privacy Violations

Outing or disclosing an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity without their consent is a serious violation of privacy. Such actions can lead to a hostile work environment, emotional distress, and potential safety risks for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Hostile Work Environment

Comments, jokes, or behaviors that demean or marginalize LGBTQ+ employees contribute to a toxic work culture. A hostile work environment affects job satisfaction, productivity, and overall mental health, making it difficult for LGBTQ+ employees to thrive professionally.

Wrongful Termination

LGBTQ+ employees may be wrongfully terminated due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. This can be direct, where an employer explicitly fires someone for being LGBTQ+, or indirect, where the termination is based on pretextual reasons masking discriminatory intent.

Mission

I seek justice for my clients and empower them through the law.

Happy Clients

Trans Right Employment Attorney

Colin McHugh (He/Him)

Colin McHugh is a seasoned employment law attorney, licensed in Washington and Oregon, who champions the rights of LGBTQ+ employees. With a strong commitment to equality, Colin tackles workplace issues such as harassment, benefit denial, and wage discrimination head-on. Known for his thorough case preparation and fearless advocacy, he stands up to any employer, no matter their size. At McHugh Law, we are dedicated to ensuring that LGBTQ+ individuals receive the respect and fair treatment they deserve in the workplace. If you’ve experienced discrimination due to your sexual orientation or gender identity, our dedicated legal team in Vancouver, Washington, is ready to guide and support you through every step of the legal process.

Admitted To Practice

  • Washington State Courts
  • Oregon State Courts
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington
  • 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

Awards & Recognition

  • Super Lawyers 2023 WA Rising Stars List
  • Super Lawyers 2022 WA Rising Stars List
  • Super Lawyers 2021 WA Rising Stars List
  • Accomplished & Under 40 Award 2021 – Vancouver Business Journal
  • Super Lawyers 2020 WA Rising Stars List

Paralegal

Taylor Yerroeck (She/Her)

With 7+ years in law, Taylor Yerroeck specializes in employment law and workplace harassment cases, actively managing all case aspects to ensure effective resolution and client support.

Office Support Dog

Foxy McHugh

Foxy McHugh is the office support animal, trained for mediations and client meetings. Foxy is available for meetings upon request, providing quiet support and snuggles.

Paralegal

Taylor Yerroeck (She/Her)

Office Support Dog

Foxy McHugh

With 7+ years in law, Taylor Yerroeck specializes in employment law and workplace harassment cases, actively managing all case aspects to ensure effective resolution and client support.

Foxy McHugh is the office support animal, trained for mediations and client meetings. Foxy is available for meetings upon request, providing quiet support and snuggles.

Colin was knowledgeable, professional, took time to discuss matters and scenarios with me and validated my understanding as well as explained new concepts to me. I never felt rushed and was thoroughly satisfied with his legal advice, expertise, and reasonably-priced services.
Peter Y.

Featured Press Stories

Vancouver Chiropractic Clinic Faces Lawsuit for Alleged Sexual Harassment

Vancouver employment law attorney Colin F. McHugh is representing four former female employees of a Vancouver chiropractic clinic in a lawsuit against their former employer and an Arizona-based consultant. The lawsuit, filed in Clark County Superior Court, alleges sexual harassment and sex discrimination by ATLASRHINO INC., owned by Troy Dreiling, and Fred Schofield of Mo Chih Chu Chiropractic Training, Inc. The plaintiffs accuse the defendants of inappropriate conduct, including comments on weight and the use of a riding crop. Mr. McHugh emphasizes the emotional distress and humiliation suffered by his clients, aiming to bring justice and safer workplace standards.

McHugh Law is proud to be featured in The Columbian for our commitment to workplace equality.

Camas Pregnancy Discrimination

A hair stylist at a salon was fired while on maternity leave and requesting a modified schedule to return to her position. Mr. McHugh sued the Camas salon and its owner for pregnancy discrimination and wrongful termination.

Disability Discrimination at Ridgefield Barn

Mr. McHugh represented an employee of a Ridgefield equestrian center who was terminated when he informed his employer that he was in the hospital for a heart condition. On behalf of the employee, Mr. McHugh sued the barn and its owners for disability discrimination and retaliation.

Cowlitz PUD Employee Sues Utility Provider

With the assistance of Vancouver employment law attorney Colin F. McHugh, a Cowlitz County Public Utility District (PUD) employee is pursuing legal action against the PUD and ABM Industry Groups, LLC (ABM) for negligence, alleging they risked the safety of their employees by hiring and retaining a janitor previously convicted of voyeurism and other sex-related crimes. Mr. McHugh supports his client’s claim by emphasizing the emotional distress suffered by his client and negligence by the PUD for not checking the background of the janitor at hire, and not terminating him once it became aware of his previous convictions. The legal effort aims to hold the PUD and ABM accountable for the negligent oversight that led to the unauthorized recordings of his client.

CalPortland Work Safety Retaliation Case

McHugh Law, PLLC represents a deck hand and "miner" on a dredge and barge who worked for CalPortland and was terminated for reporting dangerous hours and working conditions to his supervisor. The miner has been awarded around $500,000.00 in backpay, attorneys' fees and costs. The case is currently under review by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission after being repeatedly appealed by CalPortland.

Disability Discrimination Case Against WA DOC

Mr. McHugh represented Corrections Officer employed by the Washington Department of Corrections, who was being discriminated against for having a hearing condition and using cochlear implants. The facility's managers forced the officer to go through a series of hearing "tests" on an open radio line that could be heard by virtually all of his co-workers and inmates at the facility, and prevented the officer from returning to work, despite being released back to work by his medical providers.

LGBTQ+ Workplace Rights FAQ

Common Questions

 

Are there specific laws in Washington and Oregon that protect LGBTQ+ workers?

Yes! Aside from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (confirmed by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County in 2020), which prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, both Washington and Oregon also have specific laws that protect LGBTQ+ workers. The Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) and Oregon’s Equality Act prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment. These state laws complement federal protections and provide additional avenues for recourse if you experience discrimination. Both states also have laws that protect LGBTQ+ individuals in other areas, such as housing and public accommodations.

How can I report workplace discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity?

If you experience discrimination or harassment, you can report it internally by following your company’s complaint procedures, typically outlined in the employee handbook. If the issue is not resolved, you can file a complaint with external agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Washington State Human Rights Commission, or the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI). It’s important to document all incidents and communications related to the discrimination or harassment to support your case. Additionally, consulting an experienced employment attorney who specializes in LGBTQ+ workplace issues can help you navigate this process, gather evidence, and ensure your rights are protected.

What should I do if my employer retaliates against me for reporting discrimination?

Retaliation for reporting discrimination is illegal. If you believe you are being retaliated against, you should document all instances of retaliation and report them to your employer, if possible. You can also file a retaliation complaint with the EEOC, the Washington State Human Rights Commission, or Oregon BOLI. Retaliation can include demotion, termination, reduced hours, or other adverse employment actions.

Can my employer ask about my sexual orientation or gender identity during a job interview?

No, employers should not ask questions about your sexual orientation or gender identity during a job interview. These questions are considered inappropriate and can be seen as discriminatory. Employers should focus on your qualifications and ability to perform the job. If you are asked such questions, you can choose to redirect the conversation to your professional skills and experiences.

What are my rights if I am transitioning while employed?

If you are transitioning while employed, you have the right to a supportive and non-discriminatory work environment. This includes the right to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with your gender identity, the right to have your name and pronouns respected, and the right to dress according to your gender identity. Employers in both Washington and Oregon are required to make reasonable accommodations to support you during your transition. For more information on transgender or gender identity workplace issues, please click this page to learn more.

What legal recourse do I have if I am denied a promotion due to my sexual orientation?

If you believe you were denied a promotion due to your sexual orientation, you can file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC, the Washington State Human Rights Commission, or Oregon BOLI. It’s important to gather evidence that supports your claim, such as performance reviews, emails, and witness statements. An experienced employment lawyer can help you navigate this process and determine the best course of action.

What steps can I take if I am being paid less or denied benefits because I am LGBTQ+?

If you believe you are being paid less or denied benefits due to your sexual orientation or gender identity, start by documenting any disparities in pay and benefits, comparing them with those of similar colleagues. Gather evidence such as pay stubs, benefit statements, and job descriptions. Report the issue to your HR department or supervisor and keep records of these interactions. Seek legal advice from an experienced employment law attorney to understand your rights and options. You may file a complaint with the EEOC or your state’s relevant agency, and if necessary, your attorney can represent you in court to seek justice and compensation.

Can I take legal action if my employer doesn’t address my complaints about harassment?

Yes, if your employer fails to address your complaints about harassment, you can take legal action. You can file a complaint with the EEOC, the Washington State Human Rights Commission, or Oregon BOLI. If these agencies find that your complaint has merit, they can take action on your behalf, or you may receive a “right to sue” letter that allows you to file a lawsuit in court. Consulting with an employment lawyer can help you understand your options and build a strong case.

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