Sexual Orientation and employee privacy


I was wondering what my options are for displinary actions with an employee that has told her coworkers that  the new employee is gay? The new employee had not told her she just assumed or new some way because she is gay.

Where I come from (corp. Co. ) this would have been grounds for immediate termination. But I manage a PT clinic in OR and it is a laid back atmosphere ?


What can I do legally.


  • 3 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • I don't think that outing someone is, in and of itself, a legal problem.  I worked in Oregon from late '04 until early '06 and we had a good mix of "orientations" and "lifestyles" and "other labels to describe what people do that has nothing to do with their job".  However, merely pointing out that a person is homosexual and trying to create trouble for someone because they are homosexual are completely different animals.  Where I was working, for someone to simply mention that some other employee was "gay" wouldn't have caused anybody to bat an eye except to say that one might wonder how and why it even came up in conversation but the mere mention would not have been an issue.  If the person doing the outing is being disruptive or trying to make trouble for the new employee by outing them, you probably have policies covering disruptive behavior or professionalism in a code of conduct.

    It is definitely worth making sure you know the protection status of homosexuality in your city, county, and state.  I do not know the current rules although I was working in an area with local and state protections.  It may well be the case that saying someone is homosexual is in the same legal category as saying that they are the member of a particular race or of a particular nationality, which also is not necessarily illegal but may well be a bona fide pain to deal with.

    Hey, did you know John was from Mexico?
    I heard the new guy is gay.
    Someone told me that Frank is Asian.

    None of those things is necessarily illegal, all of them are potential precursors to a problem, and all of them may well be a problem depending on what the statement was intended to do and what, if any, negative consequences were realized or perceived to have been realized by the new employee.

    For example, if I ask my friend, Kent, if he knew John was from Mexio, that may be because Kent is going to Mexico and wants to talk to someone who has been there.  It may also be because I know that Kent bears animosity to people from Mexico and I'm playing "let's you and him fight".

    I guess where I'm going with this is that it is context sensitive and you definitely need to look more into it.

    I know of one large Company that will fire any employee for using aderogatory racial epithet.  Their own employee relations people use code words to indicate when these things are said because they can't even use them in company documents maintained to record what happened in the situation.  If you have policies directly addressing this, then carry out your policy!

  • how has your company handled other situations like this but involving another protected characteristic? i would be consistent.
  • This discussion brings up an interesting case we had at my old company in Connecticut. A lawsuit was filed--I think it was defamation based on a supervisor telling a couple of other employees a man working as an independent contractor was gay. The contractor said it wasn't true, damaged his reputation and caused emotional distress. Believe it or not, the case didn't go away at the start.

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