In a decision that aligns workplace equality with marriage equality, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in July that workplace discrimination against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered) workers is unlawful under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Title VII explicitly prohibits employment discrimination “based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.” The EEOC extended such protections to include LGBT employees, saying that discrimination against LGBT workers is sex discrimination “because it necessarily entails treating an employee less favorably because of the employee’s sex,” the commissioners wrote.
Thus, the same Title VII protections apply to LGBT workers, spouses, parents, children, etc. A post on the Talent Management blog cited an example: “If a manager discriminated against a woman for displaying a photo of her wife, but not a man for showing a photo of his wife, that will be considered sex discrimination.”
When the Supreme Court heard arguments in this year’s same-sex marriage case, Chief Justice John Roberts offered similar reasoning to the EEOC’s. “If Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t—and the difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?”
In light of the July EEOC decision, HR/benefits professionals will want to ensure all anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, procedures, and employee/manager trainings are in line with outlawing bias against LGBT workers. We encourage employers looking for resources on these topics to visit the Human Rights Campaign website.