It may seem as though the gay rights movement has gained steam nationwide, protecting those of all sexual orientations. However, it is an unfortunate fact that workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation still occurs in professions across the nation, including law enforcement. The issue of sexual orientation discrimination in law enforcement departments is becoming so problematic that some officers are suing their employers for alleged discrimination and harassment. Some officers are forced to endure taunting, hostile work environments and limited chances for promotion or protection, simply due to their sexual orientation.
Since 2016, 11 lawsuits involving sexual orientation discrimination in law enforcement departments have been filed in the United States. One of these suits was filed by a Tennessee officer at the Memphis Police Department. In his lawsuit, he claims that he was mocked for being gay and was held to a different standard than other officers, including being unfairly disciplined. He first filed a complaint internally, then brought his complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before finally pursuing a legal claim based on the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.
In 2017, the city settled the officer’s claim. Now the police department in Memphis has been working to create a more inclusive work environment, including establishing an LGBTQ employee resource group and seeking new workers at Pride fairs. After the settlement, the officer transferred to the training academy. He continues to serve as an LGBTQ community liaison.
While this officer’s case has led to a satisfactory result, some workers facing sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace may be afraid to act. It is important to hold employers responsible when they permit a workplace to be hostile and discriminatory towards those of other sexual orientations. Workers placed in such situations may have legal options that they can learn more about by consulting with an employment law attorney.