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California high school teacher fired over sexual orientation

In an ideal world, discrimination in the workplace would not be an issue. Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world and many people face workplace discrimination on a daily basis. In order to reduce the amount of workplace discrimination, federal and state employment laws protect workers from facing discrimination based on a variety of factors or attributes. Under these employee laws, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, age or disability, among others. California state laws also offer protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Recently, a teacher at a Glendora, California Catholic high school was fired after he married his partner. The wedding apparently made the local paper and the teacher was fired shortly thereafter, despite the fact that school administrators had known about his sexuality for years. Many are now questioning the legal implications of this teacher's dismissal.

Normally, an employer who fired an employee for being gay would be subject to punishment under California's employee laws. However, this law has an exception for religious organizations and non-profit corporations which could apply to the school. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has upheld a religious organization's right to fire employees under certain conditions without violating discrimination laws. Therefore, this case seems to be in a grey area and will be worth following in the future.

While this case is not clear cut, many workplace discrimination cases are. Employers simply cannot discriminate. If an employee has been subjected to discrimination at work, that employee may be entitled to compensation. These employees should make sure they understand their legal rights and know that they can fight for fair treatment in the workplace.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Gay teacher fired: Does discrimination law trump theological conviction?," Michael McGough, Aug. 5, 2013

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