Are LGBTQ Employees in Ohio Protected from Workplace Discrimination?

posted by Neil E. Klingshirn | April 14, 2017 in Employment Law

Not everywhere (yet).

However, the City of Akron has followed in the footsteps of over one dozen cities in the State of Ohio by passing a nondiscrimination ordinance on March 27th prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.  The ordinance applies to employment, housing, and public accommodations and was inspired by a similar ordinance passed by the City of Lakewood in June of 2016. In addition, the passing of the ordinance will result in the creation of the Akron Civil Rights Commission, which shall consist of five to seven members and will have the responsibility of making sure that the provisions of the nondiscrimination ordinance are upheld.  

The process of naming the LGBTQ community as a protected class also progressed at the national level this past week with the issuance of a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision proclaiming that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The April 4th decision comes as a feat for Kimberly Hively of Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, who alleged that she was denied several full-time professor positions at Ivy Tech between 2009 and 2014 because she is a lesbian.  

Although the Hively v. Ivy Tech decision can only be described as historic, the battle for equal employment rights for LGBTQ individuals is far from over.  Up until now, current employment discrimination laws have covered those who have been discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability or genetic information.  Those who have experienced discriminatory behavior as a result of sexual orientation or gender identity have not been protected under these laws.  A review of Hively v. Ivy Tech by the Supreme Court, along with an affirmation of the 7th Circuit decision by at least five Supreme Court members, would be necessary in order to outlaw sexuality-based discrimination in the workplace in all 50 states.  This review is likely to occur in the future, but no details have been confirmed.

(This is general legal information and is not offered as specific legal advice.  Do not rely on this information to make decisions about your rights.  If you have questions about potential gender identity or sexuality-based discrimination in the workplace, contact an attorney).

Sources:
http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/04/politics/lgbt-employees-appeals-court/index.html
http://www.akron.com/akron-ohio-community-news.asp?aID=33759

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