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Discrimination in the Workplace Continued….

Following up on our blog post from Wednesday, Progress for Transgender Employees Seeking Protection from Discrimination in the Workplace, the topic really isn’t so far removed from what is going on right in our own community.  In late July the Fayette County Board of Education updated the language of their anti-discrimination policy to include gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes.  The decision was approved unanimously and applies to students, teachers and school district employees. This adds Fayette County to the list of approximately six other public school districts that have specific prohibitions for these protected classes.  Gender discrimination is banned by all 174 public school districts in Kentucky.

In 1966 Kentucky was on the cutting edge of discrimination legislation, passing the South’s first civil rights law – prohibiting discrimination in employment and public accommodations based on race, national origin, color and religion. Establishing The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights as the enforcement arm was also a first for the South.  In 1968 Kentucky became the first State in the South to enact fair housing laws, prohibiting these same discriminations.  More recently, the City of Louisville was one of the first in the country to pass a fairness ordinance that included gender identity.

Although Kentucky prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, it only applies to the public employment sector.  There are revealing trends, like the action taken by the Fayette County Board of Education, which point to the mainstream moving ever-closer toward the inclusion of these two classes (gender identity and sexual orientation) in all areas of discrimination protection.  The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (“HELP”) heard testimony June 12, 2012 on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (“ENDA”) – legislation aimed at creating comprehensive employment and anti-discrimination protection for individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  ENDA is has been circulating in Congress since last year and has bipartisan and Presidential support.   With more issues regarding sexual orientation, preferences and gender identity being played out on the national stage, such as the Chick-Fil-A marriage equality debate, and locally the Richmond, Kentucky Fairness Ordinance debate, it seems logical that every employer should consider updating their discrimination policies and practices.  As attorney, Benjamin Riddle pointed out in his recent blog post, The Slippery Slope of Social Media in Hiring, it is always necessary for employers to be aware of and address quickly developing law on both the federal and state levels.  It is your company’s best protection.

Given our State’s history with civil rights, and being a pioneer in that area of the law, we will be watching this issue closely, eager to see if our state’s history holds true.  We are always prepared to update you on how you can stay ahead of the legal curve.

This article is intended as a summary of newly enacted federal law and does not constitute legal advice.

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