My co worker called me gay, do I have a lawsuit against him?

My co worker called me gay to another co worker, when I'm not. That co worker alerted me, and I alerted management. Can I sue him over it? I have already alerted management, and they wrote him up.

1 answer  |  asked Oct 11, 2012 09:40 AM [EST]  |  applies to Arizona

Answers (1)

Francis Fanning
While the law on this subject is rather complex, the answer to your question is simple - you do not have a claim. First of all, there is no federal or state law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or sexual preference, real or perceived. Second, while there are some circumstances in which an employer can be liable for discrimination based on sex related characteristics, your co-worker is not your employer. Third, while an employer can be liable for permitting sexual harassment in the workplace, you were not harassed. Comments made about you outside your presence are not harassment. In any event, the employer's duty in the face of a report of sexual harassment is to take appropriate action to eliminate further harassment, which the employer apparently did.

The only conceivable claim you might have against your coworker would be a claim of defamation. The problems with pursuing this claim are many. First, defamation requires the publication of a false statement that causes injury to your reputation. Although the statement was false and was published to another coworker, it did not damage your reputation for two reasons. First, the person to whom it was published told you about it, suggesting that he or she did not think less of you on account of the statement. Second, while calling someone gay might have been considered damaging to that person's reputation in the twentieth century, in recent years the stigma has diminished to the point where you would be hard pressed to prove any real damage to your reputation even if someone believed it. Finally, you would have to prove that the statement that was made was perceived as a factual statement, which means the speaker would have reason to know your true sexual identity. If the statement was "He's so gay," or "I think he's gay" or "I'll bet he's gay," these are not factual statements.

Bottom line - get over it.

posted by Francis Fanning  |  Oct 11, 2012 1:32 PM [EST]

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