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Can my boss legally discuss my sexual orientation with other employees?

Merced, CA |

I live in California. A co-worker informed me that my boss and another co-worker openly discussed how they think that I am homosexual.

Attorney Answers 3


It is unlawful for a CA employer to harass or discriminate against an employee because of his/her sexuality. However, the harassment has to be either severe or pervasive. You may want to send an email (it creates a written record - keep a copy) to HR or your boss, etc. to advise that you feel unlawfully harassed. Keep your complaint simple and based on the facts and without alot of other complaints so it does not appear as if you are a troublemaker/whiner, etc. Your email may be evidence in the future. You may want to consult with an employment law attorney to help you write your complaint for a small fee. Once you complain about unlawful harassment, your employer has a duty to investigate the matter and make sure it stops. If you are retaliated against for complaining aout your legal rights, you may have a valid claim of unlawful retaliation.

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If that is all that has occurred so far, that would not rise to the level of severe or pervasive unwelcomed comments or conduct related to sexual orientation. However, it may be a start of longer term conduct that could become severe or pervasive. It is important that you give the employer a chance to protect you from the potential harassment. If you are in a large enough company to have a designated HR person to report such conduct to, do so. If you are in a small business where your is THE boss, then you need to politely ask that he stop talking about you in that manner.

Good luck to you.

This answer should not be construed to create any attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship can be formed only through the mutual execution of an attorney-client agreement. The answer given is based on the extremely limited facts provided and the proper course of action might change significantly with the introduction of other facts. All who read this answer should not rely on the answer to govern their conduct. Please seek the advice of competent counsel after disclosing all facts to that attorney. This answer is intended for California residents only. The answering party is only licensed to practice in the State of California.

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I can't disagree with Ms. Karilla's statement of the law and recital of your options. But employees should always be cautious in making waves with employers based on what some 3rd-party has related. If the only evidence of this objectionable conduct is the statements of a single co-worker, and if you have no other basis for assuming that the information is true, consider doing nothing at all for the present.

Why? Well, if the co-worker is not telling the truth, or is not accurate in the accusation, you may create an unpleasant and risky employment situation for no good reason. It is highly likely that in any contested situation, your "helpful informant" will go soft and south on you -- leaving you holding the bag in an unwarranted situation where you cannot credibly assert any accusation because you don't have first-hand knowledge.

Employees (and employment attorneys) often forget how critical it can be for the employee not to incur the active personal dislike of the manager or employer. Once you are disliked by your employer, your daily life can be profoundly impacted for the worse, as can your long-range employment prospects. Making a false accusation is a fail-safe way to incur personal animosity of diminish your options.

So, the critical question is: should you make such a large bet on the integrity, credibility and accuracy if this particular co-worker? Only you can answer that.

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