Is lesbian discrimination at work considered sexuality harassment?

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Question:

I work at a small company with less than 10 employees in Colorado. I am constantly being harassed by my supervisor because of how I dress. Although I'm a woman, I like to wear pants and pantsuits. I don't like dresses or skirts and I never wear them. But my supervisor is always commenting to me and my co-workers that I dress like a man, that my hair is cut short like a man's, and that I should dress to look more "feminine." He has even suggested that unless I start dressing more feminine, I may be fired. Everyone at work knows I'm a lesbian. So I think my supervisor has a problem with that and is subjecting me to "lesbian" discrimination because of his prejudice. Is this a form of sexual discrimination and harassment at work?

Answer:

The Anti-Discrimination Act of Colorado prohibits discrimination by an employer based on sexual orientation. This law applies to all employers located in Colorado, regardless of the number of employees. This means that as a lesbian, you are a member of a protected class. Your employer cannot discriminate against you because of your sexual orientation or show a lesbian prejudice or bias towards you.

Sexual harassment is a type of discrimination that includes conduct such as slurs and intimidation. In your case, your supervisor does make sexual slurs against you regarding your lack of "femininity." This is especially true since he knows about your sexual orientation. Furthermore, threatening to fire you if you don't start to dress "more feminine" is a form of intimidation.

Keep in mind that employers are allowed to require employees to wear appropriate clothing at work. But under Colorado law, they cannot require employees to dress in a manner inconsistent with the employees' gender identity. If you are following the dress code of your company, your supervisor has no right to require you to wear dresses more often or to dress in a manner he considers "more feminine."

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