Recent controversies aside, will the Equality Act impact employers?
On February 25, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act for a second time in recent years. This time, however, with Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House, the bill actually has a meaningful chance of becoming law, in at least some form. Among other things, the Equality Act amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to expressly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As it relates to employers, the proposed law would establish sexual orientation and gender identity as protected employee and prospective employee classes under Title VII (the section of the Civil Rights Act addressing employment discrimination and retaliation), which already covers race, national origin, gender and several other protected classes.
Will the Equality Act impact employers?
The short answer to this question is “no.” If passed into law, the Equality Act should have minimal impact on most employers.
Why is that?
In June 2020, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling that Title VII, in its current form, already protects employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Since this decision, employers nationwide who are covered by Title VII have a legal obligation to refrain from discriminating against employees and prospective employees based on these characteristics. As a result, the Equality Act will have limited practical impact on most employers.
If you have any questions or would like more information on the potential ramifications of the Equality Act on your business, the McDonald Hopkins Employment Team is available to assist.