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Discrimination based on sexual orientation in West Virginia

Where you live in West Virginia determines whether or not it's legal for your employer and coworkers to harass you over your sexual orientation.

Fortunately for one man, Huntington is a more progressive area than many others within the state. That's allowing him to press a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit against the Tri-State Airport Authority for actions that would probably violate the sensibilities of most ordinary people.

The former employee's boss and coworkers knew about his sexual orientation, but that didn't stop them from various degrading acts:

-- Derogatory comments from a coworker were said right in front of his supervisor and boss, neither of whom took action.

-- A police officer publicly reprimand him in front of other employees for not following procedure. When he invited the officer to view the security footage proving that he had, in fact, followed procedure, the officer suddenly dropped the issue and began telling the plaintiff about how he had once arrested two "fag homos" having sex. He provided graphic details and gestures to the entertainment of those listening.

-- A daily barrage of degrading comments toward homosexuals by other employees.

West Virginia's state ordinances do not provide protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation -- however, local ordinances in several towns and cities do. Huntington happens to be one of them, ever since the city council unanimously added the clause in 2013.

According to the lawsuit, the people in charge of the Tri-State Airport Authority fired the worker once he reported the illegal activity. Because the discriminatory actions are illegal in Huntington, that makes retaliation against anyone reporting the activity a violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act.

Cases like this illustrate the somewhat spotty protections given to homosexual employees within the state -- but they also provide hope that justice can be obtained even in the absence of a state law preventing such discrimination.

If you've been discriminated against in the workplace, suffered degrading comments from coworkers and supervisors or faced unfair disciplinary actions based on your sexual orientation, talk to an attorney about your options.

Source: West Virginia Record, "Man accuses Tri-State Airport Authority of sexual discrimination," Kyla Asbury, March 23, 2017

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