I work at a high school. I am gay, and one of our male assistant principals made a comment, to the other assistant principals, that he saw 5 girls sitting in my office, but that “we don’t need to worry about that” and laughed. I feel degraded. Do I have and rights? I’m just curious. Thanks for your time.
An employment attorney can give you advice that considers your more general experiences at your workplace, as well as your employment contract and your state’s particular laws.
With that said, under federal anti-discrimination law, you probably do not have any recourse at this time. You may be able to make an argument that this was sexual harassment, although federal courts have been inconsistent with how they deal with sexual harassment of gay individuals. Generally, you would need to establish that the harassment has created a hostile work environment for you. This means that such comments are pervasive, are objectively offensive, and interfere with your ability to do your job. Furthermore, you’d have to establish that your employer has had the opportunity to address the situation and has failed to do so. Basically, this requirement means that you would have to make a complaint which your employer then
ignores, addresses inadequately, or for which it retaliates against you.
The mere offhand comment you cite likely doesn’t meet this standard hostile work environment. However, if you felt it was inappropriate, you should report the incident to your employer. If similar incidences occur, you may be able to establish a pervasive pattern and meet the requirements for sexual harassment. You should keep a record of incidences, along with actions you’ve taken and actions your employer has taken. Such evidence can be helpful if you do eventually pursue a claim. Again, an employment attorney can be particularly helpful in looking at your whole circumstance, including state laws and your contract.