I'm sure I'm being discriminated against because of my sexual orientation. What can I do?

It is against the law to discriminate against a worker on grounds of sexual orientation. If you feel you are experiencing discrimination, you should keep a record of relevant instances, when they occurred and who witnessed them.

Keep a copy of any evidence you find – including, for example, texts, Facebook postings and so on.

Then, if you have to raise the matter formally, you can support your case with specific examples.

Often it is best to start by raising the issue informally. Your employer or your manager, if you think they are discriminating against you, are likely to be horrified to discover how you feel and keen to change their behaviour.

If you haven’t already done so, join a union. Unions are expert at resolving equality issues and at supporting individual members who are facing discrimination at work, and bringing about improvements, such as better equality policies, training and promotion opportunities, that benefit all LGBT workers across the organisation.

You can find out more information about how to join a union, and about choosing the union most suited to you, by using our Union Finder tool.

Your employer may have a specific policy in place outlawing all forms of bullying and harassment at work, including discriminatory harassment.

Large employers often also have specific Dignity at Work policies and Codes of Conduct, which typically commit the employer to ‘zero tolerance’ of all forms of discrimination and harassment. It is a good idea to check your employer’s policies and procedures. Some employers, for example, provide a confidential ‘hotline’ so that you can report your concerns.

If you decide to complain formally about your treatment, you should use your company's grievance procedure, or any specific procedure in place where you work. You have a legal right to be accompanied by a work colleague or a trade union official to a meeting.

If you are not sure what is motivating your employer to behave in this way but you suspect discrimination, Acas has produced useful guidance about asking your employer questions about discrimination (PDF, 164 KB).

It is a good idea, if possible, to get some expert help when thinking about what questions to ask, for example from an equality officer at your union, or an LGBT rights charity such as Stonewall.

These are difficult issues for anyone to confront head on with a hostile employer. This is especially true if you are in a precarious position – for example, if you are in your first job, or are an agency worker or have a zero-hours contract with no job security. These are all good reasons for joining a trade union if you are not already a member.

If you are not able to find any other way of resolving the situation, you may want to consider a claim in the employment tribunal for sexual orientation discrimination.

Deadlines in the employment tribunal are short. The claim must be brought within three months.

The first step in any tribunal claim is to contact Acas for early conciliation. You do this by submitting an Acas Early Conciliation Notification Form. You can find out more information about Acas Early Conciliation here. Acas early conciliation is free of charge.

You must submit the Acas Early Conciliation Form within the three-month time limit for bringing your claim. Otherwise your claim will be out of time and the tribunal will not be able to consider it.

Tribunal deadlines are short and are strictly enforced. Only rarely do tribunals agree to extend the deadline if you miss it.

For more information about bringing a tribunal claim, including information about Acas early conciliation, see our section Enforcing Your Rights.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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