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Police departments face LGBT discrimination lawsuits nationwide

More police departments than ever -- including those in California -- are facing a reckoning with their past when it comes to discrimination against their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) brothers and sisters in blue.

In the past, many gay officers were unable to take action against their departments because they didn't have the legal protection to do so. Some just tried to quietly get along, some hid their sexuality and others would simply leave their positions behind and move on after devastating encounters with homophobic co-workers and those in authority.

Now, many areas of the country have established legal protections that are specifically designed to protect the LGBT community against workplace harassment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission considers discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender stereotypes to be illegal and a violation of Title VII. This, combined with changing societal attitudes and the legalization of same-sex marriage nationwide, has emboldened many officers who have experienced discrimination on the job to step forward.

Some of the accounts of officers who faced discrimination on the job are horrifying:

  • One officer was threatened with a gun to his head over his sexual orientation.
  • A transgender officer had her desk broken into, her personal items stolen and was physically attacked by a co-worker after hours.
  • A lesbian officer left her job after years of discrimination by a police chief.
  • Another officer was told to "tone down his gayness" if he wanted a promotion.
  • Numerous officers say they were abandoned in crucial moments and forced to face dangerous situations alone because a hostile co-worker would refuse to provide backup.

Stepping forward to file a discrimination lawsuit is never easy -- but it is a part of forcing accountability. If you have experienced discrimination over your gender expression, gender identity or sexual orientation on the job, find out more about your options under local, state and federal law.

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