EEOC now protects gay workers

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has interpreted the federal law barring workplace gender bias to include a ban on discrimination against gay workers.

The EEOC said that “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is premised on sex-based preferences, assumptions, expectations, stereotypes, or norms. ‘Sexual orientation’ as a concept cannot be defined or understood without reference to sex.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. These federal laws also prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who oppose discriminatory employment practices – for example, by reporting incidents of sexual harassment to their supervisor or human resources department – or against those who file EEOC charges or cooperate with an EEOC investigation. Also, where these federal laws apply, they protect all workers, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Therefore, the EEOC’s district, field, area and local offices will accept and investigate charges from individuals who believe they have been discriminated against because of sexual orientation or transgender status (or because of gender identity or a gender transition).

Michigan’s employment laws presently do not protect workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and not all workers are protected by the federal employment discrimination laws. For example, the federal laws regarding discrimination against sexual orientation only apply if the employer has 15 or more employees for at least twenty calendar weeks in the current year or prior year.

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