Expansion of Legal Protections in the Workplace

By Glenn A. Duhl, Esq. & Angelica M. Wilson, Esq.

discrimination_madialawcom.174174423_stdJob performance is the linchpin of success in the workplace. The focus of employers and employees alike should be strong job performance and teamwork; not race, color, national origin, age, gender or sexual orientation. Employers who adhere to this belief understand that an employee’s status (i.e., race, color, gender, sexual orientation) is not relevant to his or her capabilities or ability to excel in the workplace. For those employers who do not, federal and/or state law prohibits employment discrimination on those bases. Currently, however, there is no federal law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Likewise, in 29 states, there is no legal ramification for employment discrimination due to sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

In an effort to advance gay rights in the workplace, President Barack Obama will sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This order will impact about 14 million workers whose employers or states do not ban workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. It will also impact the employment practices of companies that do business with the government. President Obama takes this action after Congress failed to pass a broader non-discrimination measure that would apply to nearly all employers nationally.

Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York are among the states that already have measures in place to prohibit this type of discrimination in the workplace. Connecticut state law bars discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment; gender identity discrimination is prohibited by the state under the category of sex discrimination. Massachusetts state law also bars employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. New York state law bars discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment. Prohibition against discrimination for gender identity, however, is solely within the realm of public employment.

These legal advancements solidify the reality that considerations of sexual orientation and/or gender identity have no place in the workplace. Instead, job performance, teamwork and “getting the job done” are the only considerations that truly reflect the qualifications of an employee and the needs of the workplace.

Glenn A. Duhl and Angelica M. Wilson are management-side employment and litigation lawyers at Siegel, O’Connor, O’Donnell & Beck, P.C. Please visit www.siegeloconnor.com for more information.   

The information contained in this article is general in nature and offered for informational purposes only. It is not offered and should not be construed as legal advice.  

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