Employers have a lot of discretion in determining who to hire for a position, what benefits to offer, what pay to offer and what is required of the employee. Most employees are at will employees, so employers can also fire them without cause for almost any reason. However, both California and federal employment laws protect employees against discrimination.
Under these laws, employers cannot discriminate against employees because of their race, gender or religion among others. Under some states laws, including California's, employers cannot discriminate against an employee because of their sexual orientation. However, sexual orientation is not protected from employment discrimination under federal law.
Despite the fact that the federal government does not protect sexual orientation against workplace discrimination, more large companies are offering protections and benefits for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered employees. The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT interest group, recently released data suggesting that larger companies are doing a better job at protecting LGBT workers. In their survey, 252 companies scored a perfect score for their treatment of LGBT employers. In 2001, only 13 companies received a perfect score.
These benefits include insurance coverage and other benefits for employees' partners and insurance coverage for gender reassignment surgeries. This survey also suggests that these businesses are doing better job specifically recruiting and retaining LGBT employees. Furthermore, more companies are publically coming out in support of LGBT rights including the freedom to marry. Over the last year and a half, 80 large companies have publically stated their support for gay marriage.
While the trend is moving towards protecting LGBT individuals against discrimination, it may still occur. Those employees that face workplace discrimination because of their sexual orientation may be entitled to compensation.
Source: Forbes, "More Companies Come Out For LGBT Rights," Susan Adams, Nov. 16, 2012