Philadelphia Employment Law News

Push to Prohibit Discrimination Against LGBT Employees

You are not allowed to fire someone because they are black. Or because they are old. But did you know that you can fire someone because you suspect them of being gay? That's the case in almost 30 states in this county, Pennsylvania included, reports GPhilly. The fight for equality amongst those with differing sexual preferences and gender identities is expanding to employment opportunities.

This issue has cropped up before. President Obama, way back in 2008 during his campaign, promised to make a nondiscrimination policy for federal employees and contractors. He has yet to do so, but there is a letter of support circulating Congress for such an Executive Order to be passed. It has so far been signed by about half of the Democratic Caucus.

Polling by the Human Rights Campaign indicate that 73% of likely voters in the upcoming election would support such an order.

Should the Executive Order be issued, LGBT federal employees and contractors would have the same right to work as other protected classes, such as racial minorities, those over 40, the disabled, and those of various religious groups.

For example, right now, if someone is fired for being a pregnant woman, they can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If successful, they have a variety of remedies available, from reinstatement with back pay to compensatory and punitive damages.

It is perhaps an interesting commentary on the disconnect between politicians and potential voters that despite 73% of people being in favor of LGBT equality in the workplace, there is not a more widespread movement, like the one to prohibit unemployment discrimination, in the states and in Congress.

As for state employees and private employers, there is no movement yet on that front. Even if this Executive Order is issued, it will still be completely legal to fire someone for suspicion of homosexuality from a private business or a state job. Remedies may exist for sexual harassment or through union representatives, but there is no actual direct legal recourse for state or private employees. However, for LGBT activists, this is merely one step towards full equality.

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