Sexual Orientation Discrimination Is Now Illegal, EEOC Rules

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled Thursday that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination that is outlawed by existing federal law.

In 2012, the EEOC ruled that discrimination established on gender identity or expression is also a form of sex discrimination that goes against the federal law, which now sets a valuable right for protecting transgender employees.

This ruling allows anyone who works for an employer with 15 or more employees to file a charge of sex discrimination with the EEOC if the employee feels discriminated against regarding his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

In 2014, Obama signed an executive order regarding two parts: It makes it illegal to fire or harass employees of federal contractors established on the sexual orientation or gender identity of the person and bans discrimination against transgender employees of the federal government.

Aside from the EEOC ruling, Congress and state legislatures have yet to pass explicit civil rights protections for LGBT employees.

“The fight for basic civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people just took a big step forward,” said American Civil Liberties Union’s James Esseks. “Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people all across the country now have a place to turn if an employer fires them because of their sexual orientation. This is a significant development because protections for gay and transgender people are almost nonexistent in federal law, and 28 states also lack state-level protections.”

“Employers as well as employees deserve the clarity that comes with express federal and state protections that everyone understands,” added Esseks. “That’s why we’ll continue to work for express and comprehensive protections. The EEOC ruling is a monumental step forward and provides important protections for millions of Americans, and that’s something to celebrate.”

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