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Federal Lawmakers Discuss Sexual Orientation Discrimination


Although the federal government has been a vanguard of many employment protections, it appears to be lagging behind the state-provided rights prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.

In defense of federal lawmakers, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act is currently before the U.S. House of Representatives, having already passed in the Senate. The bill would add sexual orientation to the list of prohibited categories under which an employer may not base hiring, firing, compensation or promotion decisions. However, the bill's chances of passing in the House may be uncertain. 

Yet according to the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy organization, at least 21 states and the District of Columbia have local laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. Maryland is one of those states.

In addition, many corporations may include sexual orientation equality among their best practices. Such practices are often codified in official corporate publications, ranging from ethics manuals, employee handbooks or even employment agreements. With that commitment may come extra responsibility, however.

For example, employees may expect employers to actively ensure that workplaces remain free of discrimination based on protected categories. Although an employee who believes he or she is the victim of unlawful employment discrimination may have the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sometimes less formal dispute resolution procedures may be preferred by all parties involved.

For example, such measures may be preventative, in the form of informal reporting channels or complaint procedures. Such procedures may preserve reputations, while at the same time resolving disputes and saving in costly courtroom litigation costs.

Source: washingtonpost.com, "Forget Congress: 21 states already protect gays in the workplace," Niraj Chokshi