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Fired for Being Gay? The Law is Increasingly on your Side

San Francisco Employment Law Attorneys Protecting Your Rights

29 states in the nation do not ban employee discrimination based upon sexual orientation. California has been at the forefront of banning such discrimination so it may seem unbelievable that in many states, a person can be fired simply for being gay. Because such discrimination is illegal in California, if an employee is fired over such discrimination in the state, the victim of discrimination may be eligible for significant compensation. In many other states, including Wyoming, employment discrimination based upon sexual orientation or identity is not illegal. Not yet.

NPR recently told the story of Josh Kronberg-Rasner of Casper, Wyoming. He held his position at a Casper food service company for a substantial amount of time and never faced any issues related to his sexuality. Kronberg-Rasner is openly gay and never considered that to be a threat to his job. In 2012, a new manager arrived and seemed to have issues with Kronberg-Rasner, according to NPR's "For People Fired For Being Gay, Old Court Case Becomes A New Tool" by Miles Bryan. Based upon treatment he received, Kronberg-Rasner is convinced he was fired for being gay. Evidence supports his contention.

Bryan reports that people like Kronberg-Rasner may have new hope to get compensation after being wronged by their employers. Federal and state authorities have been looking at prior law to determine if some existing statutes could be used to protect gay and LGBT people from employment discrimination. According to Bryan's report, the reexamination and reinterpretation of existing law "relies on a legal argument originally designed to defend women accused of not being feminine enough."

The Wyoming case, like cases in California and throughout the nation, hinges on notions of stereotypical gender expectations. Though sexual harassment does often have a dimension of unwanted sexual advances, many times it does not. Often such harassment comes from members of the same-sex as the victim. Harassment based upon sexual identity may not involve unwanted flirting but may instead be based on demeaning or offensive treatment based upon an individual's identity and sexual orientation. This is not only wrong; it is also illegal in many states and may become illegal in more very soon.

The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is likely going to continue supporting re-interpretation of existing law to grant more people protection from discrimination. The most commonly used law for their efforts involves a 1989 case in which a female executive at Price Waterhouse successfully argued that she was not granted a promotion because she did not appear feminine enough to her employer. She won that case and set a precedent used to fight gender stereotyping. There is reason to be hopeful that Federal law will soon cover this particular form or injustice.

For Kronberg-Rasner, his case may hinge on an interview the EEOC conducted with the manager responsible for his firing. The manager claims that Kronberg-Rasner had inappropriate pictures of men on his phone but also said, according to Bryan's report, that if a woman had those pictures it would be fine but a man should not. This is clearly an unfair interpretation and a stereotypical view of gender. Though unfair, this treatment is not yet clearly illegal in Wyoming.

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