Employers of all sizes in California must be aware of state and federal laws. New legislation, appeals and significant court rulings may affect how an employer develops training programs, company policies, handbooks and more.
In recent years, the law has become more inclusive, offering equal legal opportunities and protections regardless of gender identity and sexuality. Certain changes to law also extend to workplaces. Employers may need to revisit their practices and policies to ensure that they match current law and prevent discrimination.
LGBTQ workers gain a favorable ruling
The U.S. Supreme Court has recently determined that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The basis for the ruling involved two separate cases in which gay workers faced termination after their sexuality became publicly apparent.
The Supreme Court majority agreed that rationale for termination of worker is not solely about who the worker chooses to date, but rather it focuses on the worker’s gender identity itself. For example, a female worker married to a man has equal protection from discrimination as a male worker married to a man. The difference between these scenarios is one of gender, which the language of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers, according to the majority opinion.
What the ruling means for employers
California, along with several other states, already had state laws against discrimination due to gender identity and sexuality prior to the Supreme Court ruling. In the private sector within the state, therefore, employers may not need to make adjustments following this ruling.
However, federal employers as well as employers with operations in other states may need to consider current practices. Without taking precautionary measures, an employer risks liability for discrimination claims.
It is critical to develop anti-discrimination policies and provide additional training for human resources, managers and employees. Because discrimination is a sensitive matter, it is advisable to consult with an employment attorney when creating policies and training.