Jenny couldn’t have been happier. From the moment they met, she knew this relationship was different. Finally, she had someone with whom she could truly be herself. They spent time biking, shopping and cooking. Before long, they had moved in together and when they got engaged, Jenny was thrilled. Eager to share her good news, she proudly showed off her ring to her co-workers.
But Jenny’s co-workers were less than enthusiastic. Some politely congratulated her, some just looked at her blankly and a few even walked away when they heard the news. Jenny was hurt and saddened by their reaction—but she was not confused. Jenny’s department was largely conservative and Jenny’s fiancée was a woman.
Don’t ask, don’t tell
While Jenny had always been quiet about her personal life before, she was now more open. Other employees talked excitedly about their upcoming nuptials, and Sarah wanted to talk about hers as well. Jenny, however, found few people who were willing to listen.
One co-worker informed her that she should keep her private life private—she didn’t believe in gay marriage and wanted no part of the celebration. Someone even sent her an off-color cartoon with a slur about lesbians.
Jenny talked to her boss about the situation, but he intimated that perhaps she should just let it ride and not make a fuss. When she put in her vacation request for her wedding, he not only turned it down, he also suggested she might be happier working elsewhere.
What you think of me doesn’t matter
Regardless of anyone’s personal beliefs, the law, plain and simple, is that an employee cannot be discriminated against because of her sexual orientation. Nor is it legal to harass someone. Jenny’s co-workers have more than crossed the threshold of both, and despite asking for help from her employers, Jenny is not getting it.
Jenny’s legal rights and protections are being flagrantly violated. Jenny should begin keeping notes of inappropriate comments, emails that target her and complaints she has made. Both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) investigate discrimination cases.