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LGBTQ Assault and Harassment

Nashville Lawyer Assisting Victims of Violence and Intimidation

Around 95,000 workers who identify as LGBTQ people live in Tennessee. There is no statewide law that specifically protects LGBTQ people from assault and harassment. Tennessee also does not have a law that expressly prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, victims of LGBTQ assault and harassment may have remedies, and you should discuss your situation with Nashville harassment lawyer Amanda Raye Thornton.

LGBTQ Assault and Harassment

Generally, assault is an act in which one person intentionally makes another person afraid of physical contact. It is possible to bring a civil lawsuit against someone who perpetrates assault against you as an LGBTQ person in Tennessee. There must be an intentional act that causes you fear or apprehension of imminent harm; an insult will not be sufficient. For example, if you are in a parking lot getting into your car, and somebody comes after you shouting slurs, and that person raises his fist to strike you, you would have a claim against that person for assault.

Sometimes a person who seeks to assault another person cannot be held accountable in civil court because they do not have financial resources. In those cases, it may be important to look at the context of the assault. Your attorney may be able to hold an employer directly liable for negligent hiring or supervision of an employee who assaults you, or an employer may be vicariously liable for an employee assaulting you in the course of employment. For example, if you go to a bar, and the bartender raises his fist at you and calls you LGBTQ slurs, you may be able to hold the bar financially accountable under a theory of negligent hiring or supervision.


Harassment is criminalized under Tennessee Code section 39-17-308. This type of harassment occurs if somebody intentionally threatens in writing or by phone to take specific actions that are known to be unlawful, and as a result, the perpetrator knowingly annoys or alarms the recipient, or makes at least one call anonymously and in so doing annoys the recipient. It can also occur when somebody takes these actions and, knowing that it is false, communicates that a relative was injured, killed, or taken sick. While a judge may order restitution in a criminal case, it is unlikely to fully compensate for the harassment.

You can sue for harassment under Tennessee Code Annotated section 4-21-701. You would need to show that the other person acted maliciously and illegally intimidated you from freely exercising your enjoyment of a constitutional right by injuring or threatening to injure another person or destroying that person’s property.

Workplace Harassment

There is no express prohibition against sexual orientation discrimination or gender identity discrimination under federal law. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and it has issued guidance that sexual orientation discrimination and gender identity discrimination constitute forms of sex discrimination, which is prohibited under federal law. Some courts have followed this reasoning when looking at LGBTQ assault and harassment in the workplace.

Moreover, workplace harassment based on sex is illegal as a form of sex discrimination. Sometimes sexual harassment involves gender stereotyping, and it can have a strong impact on LGBTQ individuals.

If you were harassed on the job as an LGBTQ worker, it may be possible to recover damages under Title VII, which covers employers with at least 15 employees. A harassment charge must first be filed with the EEOC before action is pursued in federal court.

Nashville Law

Nashville has enacted an order that prohibits sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination against city employees. Additionally, the metropolitan area has extended such protections to contractors that do business with the municipal government.

Seek Guidance from a Harassment Attorney

If you were a member of the LGBTQ community who was harmed by assault or harassment, you should consult Amanda Raye Thornton. Attorney Thornton represents people in Nashville and other communities in Davidson, Williamson, Lincoln, Marshall, Maury, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Warren, and Wilson Counties. Call us at (615) 470-2222, or contact us via our online form.

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