Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Gaining Momentum as Protected Classifications

Last week, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a bipartisan measure entitled the Equal Housing and Employment Act, H.B. 176. This Act adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classifications against which it is illegal to discriminate in housing, employment and public accommodation. This measure now advances to the Ohio Senate.

Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4112 currently prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or job applicants on the basis of their race, color, religion, gender, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry. The Equal Housing and Employment Act seeks to add sexual orientation and gender identity to that list. Proponents of the Act hope this legislation will help attract and retain talent in Ohio. Approximately 12 other states have similar laws.

If enacted, this measure will likely not create a significant change in the status of discrimination laws for Ohio employers. Federal courts have already found that it is unlawful under Title VII to discriminate on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. Specifically, federal courts have held that it is unlawful sex discrimination for an employer to engage in “sex stereotyping,” which has been interpreted to include gender identity and sexual orientation. Thus, employers already cannot discriminate against an employee or job applicant because he or she fails to act or appear sufficiently masculine or feminine enough for the employer.

Author: Emily Wilcheck

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