EEOC Issues Guidance on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination Protections

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June is Pride Month and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued timely guidance on the protections extended to LGBTQIA+ workers under Title VII.

In June 2020, the Supreme Court determined that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on sex extended to sexual orientation and gender identity.  Bostock v. Clayton County was a landmark case with immediate import, as fewer than half of the states had laws protecting LGBTQIA+ workers from employment discrimination.

On June 15, 2021, the EEOC issued guidance clarifying the impact of Bostock.

Title VII (and by extension, Bostock) applies to employers with at least fifteen employees, including state and local governments.  It also applies to the federal government, unions, and employment agencies.  Title VII prohibits discrimination throughout an employment– from hiring to termination, promotions to work assignments, and “other terms, conditions and privileges of employment.”

Employers cannot discriminate against anyone – including straight and cisgender employees – on account of their sex.  Employers cannot discriminate based on perceived customer preference, or require employees to dress counter to their gender identity.  Employers may, however, maintain separate bathrooms and locker rooms, so long as they allow employees to use the facility that corresponds with their gender identity.

Employers should take this opportunity to review their handbooks and relevant policies to ensure compliance with Title VII’s expanded protection against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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