Municipalities Move to Add Protections Against Sex-Based Discrimination

Since sexual discrimination laws were put in place a number of changes and updates have been injected to evolve with changing workplace environments, legal mandates and social norms. Across the country, federal statutes, state and local laws, court rulings and other guidance have all helped shape the direction of working against sexual discrimination in the workplace. But these protections are having to be re-evaluated and made more specific and explanatory, especially in public municipalities, when it comes to the definition of sex/gender.

Expanding Protections

States, cities and counties throughout the United States are exploring how to add more protections against sex-based discrimination. In Pennsylvania, the state’s Human Relations Commission set our guidance on how to handle sex-discrimination in the state for everything from employment to housing, commercial properties to education. The guidance they deployed explains that the term “sex” may refer to a number of meanings, including sex assigned at birth, orientation, gender transition, gender identity and transgender identity.

But the new additions also speak to employers who have concerns of their own, especially when it comes to their own liberties. This wide-reaching expansion details how employers who believe the enforcement of these new statutes would impede their free exercise of religion can still seek their own protections found within the Religious Freedom Protection Act (RFPA).

In New York, governor Andrew Cuomo issues statewide regulations prohibiting harassment and discrimination on the bases of gender identity. And locally, in New York City in the past May, the city expanded existing protections under an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law, increasing awareness around workplace harassment.

On the Federal Level

While states are taking matters into their own hands in terms of protecting those who are vulnerable to harassment, the federal courts and agencies have made their own steps to alter and adjust laws.

The Department of Justice, headed up by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has taken its own stance on discrimination. Taking into account Title VII of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which outlines a protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the DOJ says that discrimination because of sex does not cover orientation. Additionally, the department points to Congress as being the decider rather than the federal court system to outline laws.

For federal courts, the EEOC has been pushing Title VII as the rule for employees to follow. The agency has also issues various guidance documents that provide direction on preventing discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC has made progress in arguing for this position including winning certain lawsuits in U.S. District Courts.

Regardless of where you’re at, it’s important to be aware of the updated laws and limitations that protect employees regardless of gender or orientation. Municipalities are always tapped into possible issues that can arise from workplace discrimination, and should be up to date on the surrounding area’s regulations as well as having a Municipal Liability insurance program that includes Employment Practices Liability (EPLI) coverage.

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