On Feb. 25, 2021, the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 5, known as the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and other settings. Specifically, by amending Titles II, III, IV, VI, VII and IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equality Act would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ individuals in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, credit, federally funded programs and jury service.
What the Equality Act Means for Employment
The impact of this legislation on employment is questionable, mainly because it is already unlawful to discriminate against LGBTQ employees. In June 2020, the Supreme Court declared in Bostock v. Clayton County that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids sex discrimination in employment settings, also prohibits anti-LGBTQ employment discrimination. The Equality Act would simply codify employment protections on the basis of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” into federal law.
The larger impact of the Equality Act, if it becomes law, is expected to be felt in other areas. For example, there are currently no federal protections for LGBTQ persons in federally funded programs or public accommodations. Also, less than half of all states have public accommodations protections for LGBTQ individuals. Examples of current “public accommodations” include restaurants, theaters, hospitals, libraries and retail stores. The Equality Act would expand “public accommodations” to include online retailers and transportation providers.
Finally, it remains to be seen if the Equality Act will become law. Although it has passed the House of Representatives, current Senate rules require the support of 60 Senators for it to avoid filibuster. Democratic Senators uniformly support the Equality Act. However, it is unclear if the legislation will have support from a sufficient number of Republican Senators, who have expressed concerns about it on religious liberty grounds.
If you have any questions about how the Equality Act may impact you, please contact Rob Gilmore at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216. 736.7240, Melissa Yasinow at email@example.com or 216.736.7205, or any of our Labor & Employment professionals.
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