HRC Encourages Business Community to Maintain Explicit, Robust LGBT Workplace Protections

by Ianthe Metzger

EEOC ruling prohibiting workplace discrimination against LGBT employees is an encouraging step, but not binding on federal courts

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today strongly urged employers to maintain and expand explicit workplace protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity as a sign of sustained commitment to non-discrimination.

The recent ruling by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) affirming that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is an important development on the road to full LGBT equality. Similarly, the EEOC in 2012 ruled that discrimination based on gender identity violates the Civil Rights Act.

The latest finding continues an important trend in the development of case law, but EEOC rulings are not binding on federal courts--and the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on this issue.  

“While the EEOC rulings are clear indications that discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation run counter to our shared understanding of equal opportunity, we need explicit federal protections to ensure consistent treatment under the law,” said Deena Fidas, Director of the HRC Foundation’s Workplace Equality Program and co-author of its annual Corporate Equality Index, which measures the LGBT-inclusive policies and practices at the nation’s largest companies and law firms.

“Furthermore, the private sector has long shown that affording clear protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a best business practice, with a strong majority of Fortune 500 employers extending these protections well ahead of any legal mandates,” Fidas said. “In addition to providing workplace protections, written non-discrimination policies define employer values and provide supervisors and employees alike with a shared and inclusive blueprint for conversations.”

In the absence of full, explicit non-discrimination protections nationwide, the EEOC ruling will not eliminate the continuing need for consistent workplace protections for LGBT employees. That’s why HRC is fighting for a federal LGBT non-discrimination bill that would extend consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections in credit, education, employment, federal funding, housing, jury service, and public accommodations.

HRC encourages employers to recognize the ongoing complexity of non-discrimination rules and law by committing to best practices, and maintaining and expanding sexual orientation and gender identity protections for their employees going forward. For a quick reference on the state of LGBT employment protections, download our guide here. To view the hundreds of major businesses that have adopted sexual orientation and gender identity protections, check out the Corporate Equality Index here.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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