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Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Employment

Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Employment

In the past, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community have found little relief or protection from sexual orientation discrimination. In recent years, however, more attention has been given to LGBT needs; thus, more laws and regulations are being passed to protect against sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.

Federal

Federal laws currently prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, and disability, but not sexual orientation or gender identity. However, Congress is currently proposing a bill, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would make it illegal for private employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation. Without this bill, LGBT persons have no federal protection against employment discrimination in the private sector.

The federal government does prohibit sexual orientation discrimination and gender identity discrimination in the federal workplace. In 1998, President Clinton amended an executive order that includes “sexual orientation” as a protected class in the federal government’s equal opportunity employment policy. This means that employees of the federal government and people applying for jobs within the federal government cannot be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. In 2009, President Obama did the same thing for gender identity, but the remedies under this law are more limited.

Just because there is no federal law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in the private sector, does not necessarily mean that employers are free to engage in such discrimination. If an employer is in a city or state whose laws prohibit sexual orientation discrimination, that employer must follow that local or state law.

State

As of 2015, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia have policies that protect against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment. This protection applies to both the private and public sector. New Hampshire, New York and Wisconsin have laws that protect against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity.

Local

There are about 200 cities and counties across the U.S. that have laws prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace. Check your state labor department or fair employment office to find out about your state, county, or city antidiscrimination labor laws, or visit Lambda Legal to do a search by state of antidiscrimination laws.

Company Policies

Even in cities with no local or state laws, some private companies develop their own antidiscrimination policies. As long as these policies are more and not less protective of people’s antidiscrimination interests, they are legally legit. An employee of one of these companies who feels that he or she has been discriminated against, as is defined by the company’s antidiscrimination policy, should contact management or human resources. If a complained to personnel does not take the claim seriously, this employee may have a legal claim, such as breach of employment contract or breach of company policy, against the employer.

Other Legal Theories

A wise employer will not make decisions (like ones that are based on sexual orientation) that are not based on the employee’s job performance and abilities alone, regardless of what applicable laws say. Besides discrimination, there are a number of legal theories under which employees who feel they have been discriminated against can sue:
• Breach of employment contract
• Harassment
• Defamation
• Public policy violation
• Invasion of privacy
• Intentional infliction of emotional distress
• Negligent infliction of emotional distress
• Assault
• Battery

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It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506
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About the Author

People who want a lot of Bull go to a Butcher. People who want results navigating a complex legal field go to a Lawyer that they can trust. That’s where I come in. I am Michael Anderson, an Attorney in the Salt Lake area focusing on the needs of the Average Joe wanting a better life for him and his family. I’m the Lawyer you can trust. I grew up in Utah and love it here. I am a Father to three, a Husband to one, and an Entrepreneur. I understand the feelings of joy each of those roles bring, and I understand the feeling of disappointment, fear, and regret when things go wrong. I attended the University of Utah where I received a B.A. degree in 2010 and a J.D. in 2014. I have focused my practice in Wills, Trusts, Real Estate, and Business Law. I love the thrill of helping clients secure their future, leaving a real legacy to their children. Unfortunately when problems arise with families. I also practice Family Law, with a focus on keeping relationships between the soon to be Ex’s civil for the benefit of their children and allowing both to walk away quickly with their heads held high. Before you worry too much about losing everything that you have worked for, before you permit yourself to be bullied by your soon to be ex, before you shed one more tear in silence, call me. I’m the Lawyer you can trust.