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I want to know if the situation explained below is "discrimination"?

San Jose, CA |

I was hired at a company and knew going in that the owners were Mormon. They knew before hiring me that I was a lesbian. Within 3 days the owner was giving me his opinion about the gay lifestyle and preaching his religion to me.
He actually told me that he did not agree with my lifestyle and that God did not agree also. He then went on to tell me that I would not go to "heaven" because I was a sinner.
Within a few weeks I started being ignored and not included in conversations with other employees, when I was right there. I was becoming invisible.
The owner almost everyday hit his fist on his desk and made loud noises. My anxiety went off the chart!
The worst was when another employee can in the office and started bashing "gays".Any suggestions? Anyone want to help me file with the EEOC

Attorney Answers 6

  1. Unless and until you face an adverse employment action as a result of your religion or sexual orientation, you are not being subjected to discrimination. However, unwanted comments and conduct that are severe or pervasive related to religion or sexual orientation can be harassment, which is prohibited. It is important that you make the person responsible for HR at the company aware of your discomfort with the comments and conduct, allowing the company to do the right thing and stop it. If that does not work, if the conduct and comments are sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute unlawful harassment you can file a complaint with the Fair Employment and Housing Department.

    I agree that you should not file with the EEOC or attempt to proceed under Title VII (the federal anti-discrimination statute).

    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.

  2. Sexual orientation is a protected trait under California law. Any adverse employment action taken against you on the basis of your sexual orientation would give rise to a viable claim for discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. "Severe" or "pervasive" harassment relating to your sexual orientation may give rise to a claim for hostile work environment.

    At this juncture, it seems that no adverse employment action has been taken against you (i.e., you haven't been fired or demoted) but there is likely enough for a hostile work environment claim. The question is the extent of your actual damage. Have you incurred substantial emotional distress? Has this manifested into physical symptoms? Are you seeing a therapist because of the harassment?

    If you answered no to all of these questions, an individual in your circumstance may wish to consider holding off on making a claim for hostile work environment, which would yield only minimal damages, and DOCUMENT all instances of discriminatory treatment and harassment going forward. This would allow you to build a very strong case when your employer inevitably takes some sort of adverse action against you. At the very least, it would permit you time to properly document a claim for hostile work environment.

    This is not legal advice. No attorney can properly advise a client through this limited and public internet forum. What you need is to consult with a local employment attorney to determine what option is strategically most appropriate given the facts.

    I truly wish you the best moving forward.

    This answer is a general interpretation of the law and is not fact specific to your case. Likewise it does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should seek an attorney for a review of your specific facts and documents.

  3. Based on your facts, it does appear that you may have been subject to a hostile work environment based on religion and/or sexual orientation, and depending on the circumstances surrounding your termination, there may be a discrimination case as well. I would agree with others that your better bet would be filing a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which you can do here ( However, you may want to discuss your case with an employment attorney first, as there may be additional grounds for a DFEH claim than those that you have already mentioned.

    You would also want to be more specific about what you mean by another employee "bashing gays." The more factually specific you are and the more examples you are able to provide, the stronger your case will be.

    It is less clear how the owner hitting his fist on his desk and making loud noises is related to these issues. You may want to flesh that out a bit more.

    Best of luck to you.

    Benjamin Davidson
    Law Offices of Benjamin Davidson, P.C.
    (213) 531-7010

    Disclaimer: This reply does not constitute legal advice or the establishment of an attorney-client relationship, and constitutes only general guidance based on the limited information provided, and may not take into account additional relevant facts and circumstances pertaining to your specific situation.

  4. The conduct you describe is wholly inappropriate. I agree with Mr. Pederson. The key to your case will be proving that your termination was because of your sexual orientation and not some other valid reason. It will be important for you to talk to an employment attorney for a careful evaluation. Most of us offer free consultations so you have nothing to lose. Good luck.

    Law Offices of Linh T. Nguyen 916.509.7200 Disclaimer: This reply is not intended to be and does not constitute legal advice or the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. I always recommend consulting with an attorney, especially since many attorneys offer free, no-obligation consultations.

  5. I agree with the comments of the other attorneys who have answered your question, but I strongly recommend that you contact an employment law attorney to discuss this matter. Keep notes of further harassment, including the date/time/who said/did what, who witnessed, etc. I also advise you not to engage in any conversation regarding religion or sexuality. Simply respond to any further coments by stating that you don't think the discussion is appropriate. I recommend letting an attorney represent you instead of filing a claim with the CA. Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing on your own. Many of us offer a free initial phone consultation and take these cases at no cost to the client. 949-481-6909.

  6. The previous responders have answered your question pretty thoroughly. I strongly second Ms. Karila's suggestion that you contact an attorney to help you negotiate the process of filing a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, rather than trying to file it yourself.

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