Evolving Laws on Sexual Orientation

Is your workplace prepared for the evolving employment laws? I would like to specifically go over the rise and expansion of laws in the area of sexual orientation and gender identity. While the EEOC’s enforcement position on sexual orientation is relatively recent, many states have already included sexual orientation as a protected class in private employment prohibiting sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. Employers will need to be careful to refrain from discrimination in this area given the EEOC’s current position and the direction the law is heading. I recently wrote a blog concerning the first federal lawsuits alleging sexual orientation discrimination against employers by the EEOC. The EEOC has taken the position that sexual orientation is a subset of sex discrimination, and therefore is also a protected category under Title VII.

Aside from changes to employee handbooks and policies reflecting the protection on the basis of sexual orientation, there are other steps that employers should consider, and employees should monitor, in order to ensure legal compliance and potential discrimination claims, such as:

– Make dress codes gender-neutral and apply them consistently;
– Include Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender considerations in diversity training;
– Training and education for both supervisors and employees;
– Develop protocols to assist employees;
– Immediately investigate and address complaints of discrimination or harassment.

As time goes on, we expect to see additional recommendations and clarifications by state and federal agencies and the courts.