LGBTQ Rights and Discrimination

Attorney Mark Elliott is a committed advocate for the rights of LGBTQ individuals, including those experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity or gender expression. An accomplished attorney who has witnessed the damaging effects of harassment and discrimination, Mark firmly believes that when the truth and law are on a client's side, even the most daunting obstacles can be overcome.

Florida and Federal LGBTQ Rights and Discrimination

Mark Elliott Law represents clients in Orlando, Orange County, and throughout Central Florida with regard to LGBTQ rights and discrimination issues. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) individuals are frequently subject to harassment and discrimination at work, as are individuals who are simply perceived to be LGBTQ.

A 2015 Human Rights Campaign survey found that nearly two-thirds of Americans who self-identified as LGBTQ reported experiencing some form of discrimination in their personal lives. Examples of workplace discrimination and harassment based on LGBTQ status include:

  • Use of derogatory terms, stereotyping, or name-calling
  • Denial of promotions or opportunities
  • Termination of employment
  • Demotion, such as being moved to a position with less client contact
  • Denial of benefits
  • Threats regarding the security of one's job or personal safety
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Retaliation for reporting discrimination or harassment

Individuals who identify as LGBTQ are not seeking special treatment or advantages; they simply want the same opportunities and protections that many others take for granted. Attorney Mark Elliott offers victims of discrimination the advocacy they need, so that they can receive the equal treatment they deserve. He is knowledgeable about federal, Florida, and local discrimination law and will zealously advocate for clients in court.

Gender Identity and Expression Discrimination in Florida

Discrimination and harassment based on gender identity or expression can take many forms. Employees may be required to use a restroom for individuals of the gender they were assigned at birth, not the gender with which they identify. Employers and co-workers may refuse to refer to an employee by their preferred name or pronouns. Employees may be harassed and taunted on a daily basis. The effect of these and other actions is not only to hamper the employee's effectiveness at work, but to create a hostile work environment that puts undue stress on the employee.

Many people's gender identity or expression does not conform to the sex they were assigned at birth. Those individuals frequently experience workplace discrimination and harassment. "Gender identity" is a term describing a person's self-identification as a male or female. Most of the time, one's gender identity matches their anatomical sex. For transgender individuals, this is not the case. Transgender individuals may also experience mistreatment due to their gender expression. "Gender expression" refers to the external cues, like name and clothing, which contribute to how others perceive one's gender identity. Those who identify as transgender usually prefer that their gender expression reflect their gender identity, rather than the gender they were assigned at birth based on their anatomy.

Law Regarding LGBTQ and Gender Identity and Expression Discrimination

Here in Florida, the Orange County Human Rights Ordinance was amended in 2010 to include protections for LGBTQ group members in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The amendment included gender identity and expression in the law's protections.

The Ordinance allows a person to file a lawsuit—to seek money damages (including punitive damages), to stop the discriminatory behavior, and to recoup legal costs—when they have been discriminated against by an employer, landlord, or other actor.

Federal law may offer LGBTQ group members some protections against discrimination in the workplace, especially as that law is interpreted and applied by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, the Justice Department, under the current administration, has taken the opposing view that federal law does not protect LGBTQ group members. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not explicitly mention sexual orientation or gender identity. However, the United States Supreme Court, in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs.(1998) held that "Title VII prohibits 'discriminat[ion]...because' [This]...must extend to [sex-based] discrimination of any kind that meets the statutory requirements." The Supreme Court had previously recognized in a case called Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins(1989) that employment discrimination based on sex stereotypes is unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII.

Many lower courts have taken the cue that discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and discrimination based on gender identity and expression are illegal under federal law. Multiple states have also moved in the direction of prohibiting such discrimination. Unfortunately, protection is not uniform across states or even across municipalities within a state.

The law is complex; and even in those situations where local, state, or federal law clearly applies, a victim of discrimination must often take action to enforce the rights those laws provide. Attorney Mark Elliott offers compassionate legal counsel and fierce advocacy to those whose civil rights have been violated. We invite you to contact our law office to schedule a consultation in our Orlando office.

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