Workplace Discrimination Laws and Policies

Filed under: Workplace, Transgender

Are you protected against discrimination in the workplace? View our workplace discrimination mapUnder the patchwork of state and local employment law that prohibits employment discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation more than three of every five citizens live in jurisdictions that do not provide such protections, and they are needed.

Employers can enact their own policies to apply consistently across their organization. The line between employment protections from discrimination and protections from harassment is not clearly defined, but anti-discrimination policies typically emphasize the responsibility of the employer and anti-harassment policies emphasize the responsibility of employees. Often, anti-harassment and non-discrimination statements are wrapped into the same policy language.

Non-Discrimination/Equal Employment Opportunity Policies

An employer's non-discrimination policy, or equal employment opportunity policy, typically covers conditions of employment including hiring, promotions, termination and compensation. Employers should include "gender identity or expression" (or "gender identity") and "sexual orientation" as protected classes, in addition to other federally-protected classes, in non-discrimination policies.

The policy is generally available in employee handbooks and included in a business' "Code of Conduct" but should also be incorporated as part of job announcements, on the employer's website and as part of career or diversity-related materials.

Thousands of businesses, including the vast majority of Fortune 500 corporations, already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Number and Percentage of Employers with Non-Discrimination Policies that Include Gender Identity or Expression
  Fortune 100 Fortune 500 Fortune 1000 AmLaw 200  
 2010 Total 69
2008 Total 69
2003 Total 11
Number and Percentage of Employers with Non-Discrimination Policies that Include Sexual Orientation
  Fortune 100 Fortune 500 Fortune 1000 AmLaw 200  
2010 Total  94
2008 Total 97
2003 Total 96


Anti-Harassment Policies

Specifically referencing "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression" in anti-harassment policies sends a clear message that all employees will be respected and able to work free of any kind of harassment, and that no form of harassment or offensive conduct directed at individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to other classes protected by law, will be tolerated.