More Protections Against Workplace Discrimination May Be Coming In Ohio

Employees in Ohio workplaces are protected from discrimination based on their status in many classes, including race, age, sex, disability and religion. However, there is no explicit statewide protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. While sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination may sometimes be addressed as a sex discrimination claim, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals may have a hard time fighting workplace discrimination under current laws.

That might soon be changing. If passed, a bill at the federal level, as well as two bills in the Ohio legislature, would prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Federal and state bills would ban employment discrimination against LGBT individuals

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, is a piece of federal legislation that would prohibit employers from making employment decisions like those affecting hiring, promotion, compensation or termination on the basis of an individual's gender identity or sexual orientation. ENDA has a long history, having been introduced in one form or another in most Congresses over the past two decades; it was even a single vote away from passage in the mid 90s. But, this year could be different.

Senate leaders have promised action on ENDA by Thanksgiving, and the measure is gaining support even among Republican lawmakers. Two of the bill's sponsors are Republicans, and Ohio's own Senator Rob Portman said on October 29 that he is "inclined to support" ENDA. Senator Portman's support is considered critical, as ENDA needs just a handful more "yes" votes to meet the 60-vote majority that is necessary to defeat a filibuster.

Even if ENDA fails in Congress, two measures in the Ohio legislature could change the face of antidiscrimination laws within the state. House Bill 163 and Senate Bill 125 would amend Ohio Revised Code chapter 4112 to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of classes protected from employment discrimination. Both perceived and actual sexual preference and gender-related appearance would be protected under these measures.

Talk to an Ohio employment law attorney if you have been discriminated against

Under current law, those who are treated unfairly at work in Ohio due to their sexual orientation or gender identity may, depending on the circumstances, have recourse through a sex discrimination or sexual harassment claim. In addition, 29 Ohio cities and counties prohibit workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals within their borders. And, pursuant to an executive order issued by the governor in 2011, sexual orientation discrimination (but not gender identity discrimination) is prohibited within Ohio state employment.

With all the pending legislation, these limited discrimination protections for LGBT individuals within Ohio may soon be expanding. If you believe you have been discriminated against at work due to your sexual orientation or gender identity, talk to an Ohio employment law attorney to find out how the new laws could affect you and to explore legal solutions to your problem.