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LGBT is a protected class in California

When the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that all U.S. same-sex couples could marry it was a day of celebration amid a long march for recognition of LGBT issues. It's true that marriage rights are part of the equalization process but there is still progress to be made. Each state has its own statutes regarding protected classes.

What is a protected class?

As set out by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), certain groups of people cannot be discriminated against based on their membership in a class. These classes include age, disability, race, religion, sex and more. Although some think sex's placement on the list should include orientation, there is no legal precedent for the interpretation. If a group is missing from the EEOC's list, it's up to individual states to add them. If a group isn't on the list, that means that an employer can treat you differently just because of who you are. It can be legal to fire you from a job based on a haircut or body type or, in states like South Dakota and Kansas, because you're gay or transgender.

State by state

It's notable that LGBT is not yet on the federal list and states have varied levels of acceptance. Some, like California, have include LGBT as a fully protected class for all employers, public sector and private, as well as in other approval processes like credit and housing. Other states include the group for government employers only, and some states offer no protection at all. States also have varied levels of protection for transgender citizens separate from LGB, such as the controversial HB2 in North Carolina. Failure to list members of the LGBT community means you can be fired from a job just for being yourself.

California first banned LGBT discrimination in the workplace in 1992, amending the provision in 2004 to include gender identity. The concept of a protect class defines the movement for equal rights and has been at the core throughout California's divisive Proposition 22 (2000) and Proposition 8 (2008) initiatives and lawsuits and continues now that the highest court has confirmed marriage rights.

What does it mean for me?

If you're facing workplace discrimination based on your orientation or gender identity in California it's illegal. Workplace discrimination isn't always as obvious as being hired or fired. It can include promotions and demotions, unfavorable performance reviews and the assignment of undesirable tasks that your co-workers aren't getting. It can be outspoken discrimination from a co-worker or manager or it may be subtle. Either way, the state of California insists on an inclusive work environment.

You go to work as a professional with a job to do. It's your employer's role to provide a safe space for that to happen. If your job is threatened or becomes uncomfortable because of your orientation or identity, you may be able to seek action with an employment attorney.

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