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Protections from LGBTQ+ Discrimination

June 29, 2021

By Gabrielle K. Shaulis

Though Pride month is wrapping up, the fight for equality is year-round. A significant number of LGBTQ+ individuals report facing some type of discrimination in their workplace. It is important to know what laws are in place to protect yourself and your loved ones from LGBTQ+ discrimination at work. Here is a general overview of the local and federal laws that prohibit workplace discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community:

Protections within the City of Pittsburgh

The City of Pittsburgh has an anti-discrimination section within the City Code that outlines which protected classes cannot be discriminated against. The statue covers employment and other sectors within City limits. In 1990, “sexual orientation” was added to the list of protected classes. Then, in 2019, “gender identity” and “gender expression” were added. This means that an employer within Pittsburgh limits cannot discriminate an employee because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The City describes discrimination as “any difference in treatment based on [a protected status].”

Protections within Allegheny County

Allegheny County’s ordinances include a section that makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate based on gender identity or expression or sexual orientation. Specifically, the law notes that employers cannot use these identifiers as a basis for harming an employee’s compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment. Employers in the county cannot refuse to hire/contract nor terminate an employee because of gender identity or expression or sexual orientation. Further, employers cannot require a person to disclose their gender identity or expression or sexual orientation. These laws also apply to employment organizations.

Protections within Pennsylvania

Though Pennsylvania law does not out rightly mention gender identity or expression and sexual orientation in its discrimination laws, it does ban discrimination on the basis of sex. The state also follows precedent from the Supreme Court of the United States, which considers sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination to be discrimination regarding sex. Thus, the protections are in place at the state level. Previous to the Supreme Court decision, there were not state-wide bans on gender identity or sexual orientation-based discrimination at work.

Federal Protections

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not name sexual orientation or gender identity or expression as protected categories, but Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia held that the law prohibits discrimination because of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. (Read more about Bostock and other cases covered by its decision here.) Title VII describes discrimination in the workplace as “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment…or to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee.”

If you believe that you have experienced LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace because of your sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, please contact one of Rothman Gordon’s Employment Lawyers directly, contact us online, or call (412) 338-1100.

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