LGBTQ employees have the right to a workplace free from discrimination. Yet, for one Chili’s Grill & Bar server, she believes her perceived sexual orientation affected her treatment in a promotion interview, leading to her resignation from the company. The employee alleges that she was advised that her workplace interview attire was not gender appropriate and was the type of clothing that boys wore at work. Following the uncomfortable interview experience, she left the company and later filed a complaint.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in employment. Prohibited acts include discrimination in hiring, firing, promotions, and benefits. A 2018 study by the Human Rights Campaign found that 46 percent of LGBTQ employees reported that they are not open about their sexual orientation in the workplace, down just 50 percent from 2008. Among the findings, approximately 20 percent of LGBTQ employees report being told to dress in a more masculine or feminine manner in the workplace.
The EEOC Process
In the EEOC administrative complaint process, an employee must first take this step and await a decision within a specific time frame, as detailed in the law before filing a civil suit. The employee’s complaint stated that the manager commented that her clothing was not gender appropriate and a general manager stated that it was due to her sexual orientation. At present, Chili’s has responded to the complaint with a statement that the company does not tolerate discriminatory behavior and claimed a different version of events that did not mention the employee’s work clothing. For the employee, she has since then taken a position at another restaurant for a lower rate of pay.
Discrimination in employment is regrettably a longstanding issue in a wide variety of industries and work settings across the country. While employment laws offer protection to workers experiencing discrimination, significant changes are needed in workplace cultures that recognize the importance and obligation to treat all employees equally under the law. LGBTQ workers are among those that are victims of workplace bias, despite current progress in employment protections.