Most employers have heard of the classes that are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act – race, color, national origin, sex, and religion. But many employers aren’t aware that there are other federal and state laws that create protected classes, and that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and courts around the nation have the power to expand the definitions of these classes.
For instance, in a landmark ruling last month, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited under the Civil Rights Act because it falls under the definition of “sex.”
So, what does this mean for employers?
Interestingly, the EEOC has interpreted sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity for several years, hence our longstanding advice that employers treat those as protected classes. The HR Support Center has everything you need to stay on top of this issue at both the state and federal level, and we’ll keep you informed when new laws require employer action. Log in for the latest and for more information on how to communicate any changes to your employees.