Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Job applicant told, "Your sexuality may be an issue with the atmosphere of the office environment."

I found the following story posted to the legaladvice subreddit. It's titled, "Turned down for a job, asked what the issues were. Told 'your sexuality may be an issue with the atmosphere of the office environment'."

I made it to the third interview that was directly with the head of the division on Wednesday…. The interview went pretty well with a few odd questions….

Questions along the line of "Do you gave [sic] a girlfriend or fiance at home?" "No, but I do have a significant other and he's entirely understanding of the importantance [sic] of finishing up a project on time and correctly" "You have a boyfriend? You seemed very masculine, very well let's move on" and more basic questions ending in "We have a lot of office/family events, would your boyfriend be joining us?" "Yes, of course he would if he was available".…

Today I received a call from HR thanking me for my time however I am not being offered a position.… HR was really nice and … gave me the head of the divisions email so I could connect with him a bit more.…

So I sent him an email earlier in the day thanking him for his time and politely asking about other positions and very nicely asking is there anything I could have improved on or can work on currently to make myself more suited for the company. What I got back was quite different than I was expecting.…

"Your sexuality may be an issue with the atmosphere of the office environment I have helped create here. Thank you for your interest in (company) however I will not be able to have you work in my department now or in the future."

A few thoughts:

  1. This company almost certainly unlawfully discriminated against this individual because of his sex. I've previously detailed the long history of LGBTQ discrimination under Title VII. Suffice it to say that it is (more or less) established that Title VII's definition of "sex" includes "sexual orientation," unless and until the Supreme Court says differently (an issue it is currently considering taking up). Even if SCOTUS was to rule that Title VII does not expressly include sexual orientation, this company declined to hire this individual because of a sexual stereotype about his masculinity, which, in and of itself, is unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII. Moreover, regardless of federal law, state of local laws might otherwise provide for a more specific sexual orientation discrimination claim. (The poster is from Washington State, which does protect LGBTQ employment rights).

  2. We really need to be more careful about questions we ask in job interviews. "Do you have a girlfriend or fiance at home?" and "We have a lot of office/family events, would your boyfriend be joining us?" are never acceptable job interview questions. We interview based on one's qualifications for the job, not one's family or home life, regardless of one's sexual orientation.

  3. At the end of his post, he asks, "Do I contact a higher up in the company about this? I'm perfectly suited for what they were looking for, right experience and degree and even know a handful of the people I would be working with and they sent emails to HR recommending me." Why would this individual still want to work for this toxic company anyway? Go find a company that accepts who you are and will not discriminate against you because of it.