National home improvement retailer Home Depot has been accused of discriminating against gay employees during a round of layoffs that began in 2008 when the store cut staff because of the recession. In a lawsuit brought by a former employee who was fired recently claims that the store used misguided and false stereotypes to justify discriminating against gay employees, believing that they were more expensive to keep on the payroll because of their potential insurance needs and concerns about covering benefits for same-sex partners of employees.
While discrimination based on sexual orientation is not banned by federal law, several states have taken action on this issue, including Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Since discrimination on this basis is not nationally banned, many employers believe that they can fire employees because they are homosexual or perceived to be gay. As a result, some gay employees are subject to workplace harassment or denied promotional opportunities. However, there is an increasing recognition of this problem and in some cases courts are open to interpreting laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender to extend to sexual orientation.
In this case, the former Home Depot employee says that prior to being fired because he is gay he endured harassment from co-workers and was given written up three times by supervisors for false reasons. He says that this was done as a way to encourage him to quit his job. Even in cases where an employee quits rather than being fired, they may still have a basis for a legal action if the workplace was so hostile that they were essentially forced out.
Source: Courthouse News Service, “Gay Staff Too Costly for Home Depot, Man Says,” Matt Reynolds, Oct. 4, 2013.