Under 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. Employment protections from discrimination should be understood to be inclusive of harassment but when harassment is not clearly defined or included the anti-discrimination policies typically emphasize the responsibility of the employer and anti-harassment policies emphasize the responsibility of employees. Ideally, anti-harassment language will be wrapped into a non-discrimination policy.
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" 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.
Specifically referencing "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" 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.
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