Traditionally, anti-discriminatory laws in the workplace have not covered gay and lesbian workers, but as the progressive movement toward equality for all ethnicities, women, and sexual orientation gains momentum, so does the pendulum for change. Employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is now explicitly illegal in eighteen states and the District of Columbia. Six states have also taken measures to combat employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation for transgendered people.
Because the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission did not outright recognize employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation alone, several measures have been taken to ensure equality. The Office of Personnel Management, for example, interprets “conduct” as inclusive of sexual orientation, and thus protects employers from firing employees on this basis alone.
But in 2000, Executive Order 13152 amended the Equal Employment Opportunity Act to include prohibition of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. This reflects the emerging viewpoint that all people deserve equal treatment, perhaps in part propagated by the 1989 Supreme Court ruling that discrimination on the basis of sex stereotyping violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The case represented a woman, last name Hopkins, who was denied a promotion on the basis that she was not “feminine enough.” The court awarded Hopkins with $371,000 in damages plus attorney’s fees.
Sexual stereotyping is an unfortunate reverberation of archaic gender roles.
This is exhibited in the case of Bruno vs. City of Crown Point. A female interviewee was asked how her spouse would feel about her taking on employment, perhaps insinuating his own belief that it is a woman’s sole responsibility to tend to children. Thankfully, laws were implemented that sought to divert this negative and irrational ideology from the sphere of public opinion.
This motif of political progress is in full force today to help combat the disease of prejudice in America. Employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is waning – due in large part to the efforts of lawyers and activists who feel they have been denied rights to work because they did not fit in with the expectations of the status quo.
Several cases are cropping up in which gays, lesbians, and transsexuals are suing employers for firing them over their sexual orientation. One such case of this employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation involves Jason Reed, a man who claims he was fired for taking an approved bereavement for his partner’s deceased father.
We have come a long way in our effort to protect all citizens equally, but the fact remains that as long as these anti-discriminatory laws are in effect, we have a long way to go.