Guide

Prevent discrimination and value diversity

Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation

It is unlawful to discriminate against a job seeker or employee on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The term 'sexual orientation' means a sexual orientation towards:

  • people of the same sex, ie gays and lesbians
  • the opposite sex, ie heterosexuals
  • the same and opposite sex, ie bisexuals

Direct discrimination would occur if, for example, an employer refused to employ a gay man because he is gay or a heterosexual woman because the employer believes wrongly that she is gay or bisexual.

Indirect discrimination would potentially occur if, for example, an employer is willing to accept applications for a job vacancy from all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation, but then only places the job advertisement in newspapers and magazines aimed at people who are gay or lesbian. As heterosexuals tend not to read such publications, they may be less likely to know that they can apply for the vacancy. The employer's action will be unlawful unless it can be objectively justified.

Note that you may be able to state that a job holder must be of a particular sexual orientation where being of that sexual orientation is a genuine occupational requirement - see discrimination during the recruitment process.

Read Equality Commission guidance on sexual orientation discrimination law.

For more on these types of discrimination and discrimination law in general, see equality law and types of discrimination.