Employment and anti-discrimination laws

With the Supreme Court recently granting marriage rights to same-sex couples, many new legal questions have arisen regarding the interplay between religious freedoms and anti-discrimination laws in the workplace.

On July 23, 2015, the Equality Act (S.1858/H.R.31185) was introduced by 205 Senate and House Democrats. The Act is intended to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act (CRA) to include gender identity and sexual orientation, thus extending anti-discrimination protections to many in the LGBT community. Such a comprehensive bill is being proposed as a majority of states, including North Carolina, do not specifically cover LGBT people under current anti-discrimination laws.

The Act has garnered support from a number of large corporations including American Airlines, Facebook, Nike, General Mills, Google, Apple, The Dow Chemical Company, and Levi Strauss & Co. The support of corporate America and Wall Street leaders, usually aligned with more traditional family values, is a big shift in the power balance in Washington. Such support could have a substantial impact on many business-minded politicians who must decide whether to support the Equality Act.

Meanwhile, Congress is also considering a bill called the First Amendment Defense Act sponsored by Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho. The current language of this proposed act would allow employers the freedom to make employment decisions based on religious beliefs. It specifically seeks to protect individuals and organizations who contend that marriage is between one man and one woman from being targeted with federal taxes or removal of benefits. This proposed bill highlights the inherent legal tension between First Amendment religious freedoms and laws designed to protect LGBT persons.

With two such important pieces of legislation under consideration, employment laws could change significantly in the near future. At Dozier Miller Law, we are paying close attention to these proposed pieces of legislation and always willing to advise businesses and individuals on their legal rights.

Contact our Business Law attorneys if we can be of service.

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