Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination

Will Virginia employers soon be required to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes to consider when making all employment decisions? Congress now appears ready to extend the federal anti-discrimination law to include these categories.

During the summer session, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ("ENDA") was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. IF PASSED, the Legislation would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The law would extend the same employment protections provided to employees protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals. ENDA would bar public and private employers, employment agencies and labor unions from basing employment decisions; for example, hiring, firing, promotion or compensation; on an individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Congress has failed to pass previous versions of ENDA in the past. In the near future, however, with the democratic majority in Congress and the support of President Obama, ENDA appears to have a better chance of becoming law.

Many states provide statutory protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Although some Virginia localities, for example, Arlington, provide this type of protection, Virginia does not. For this reason, it's important that if ENDA is passed, Virginia employers train their management and staff with respect to the protections provided by ENDA and update their employee handbooks, policies and procedures to ensure compliance with ENDA.

For more information about the proposed legislation, contact Mary Elizabeth Davis at (804) 697-2035.

Spotts Fain publications are provided as an educational service and are not meant to be and should not be construed as legal advice. Readers with particular needs on specific issues should retain the services of competent counsel.