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Federal Law Needed To Stop Sexual Orientation Discrimination

UCLA's Williams Institute recently published a study on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees in the workplace. According to its findings, there is still much room for improvement to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace. Gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination is consistently witnessed by both homosexual and heterosexual employees and without federal intervention and improved protections, the Institute doesn't believe conditions will improve.

Strikingly, the study notes that almost 40 percent of gay employees report having personally experienced discrimination based on their sexual preference in the workplace; 12 percent claim that they had been fired, laid off or passed over for a promotion because of their gender or sexual identity.

Greater protections offered by courts and agencies in recent years are incomplete to fully protect the LGBT workforce, according to the Williams Institute. Twenty-one states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and 16 states ban gender-identity based discrimination. The study encourages passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to simplify employee rights and employers duties to LGBT employees and prospective employees.

California has offered legal protections to gay and lesbian employees since 1979 when the Gay Law Students Ass'n v. Pacific Tel. & Tel. Co. was decided. In 1992, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) specifically prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Gender Nondiscrimination Act of 2003 added explicit protections for employees against gender identity or expression discrimination.

The study was published in the Loyola Law Review and is entitled, "Evidence of Persistent and Pervasive Workplace Discrimination against LGBT People: The Need for Federal Legislation Prohibition Discrimination and Providing for Equal Employment Benefits."

Source: LA Weekly, "Williams Institute Says Gays and Lesbians Still Vulnerable to Job Discrimination," Patrick Range McDonald, June 13, 2012

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