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Uncertainty around LGBTQ rights in the workplace

California LGBTQ employees who are currently protected from workplace discrimination may wonder if that will change under the Trump administration. In 2014, an executive order signed by Barack Obama prohibited discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation by federal contractors. It extended protections put in place by Lyndon Johnson in 1965 that made discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, religion, sex and color illegal. However, conflicting information has come from the Trump administration as to whether it will continue to protect these rights.

Many companies already had anti-discrimination policies in place. However, there are none at the federal level for LGBTQ workers in private industry, and fewer than half of all states offer protection, although California is one of them. Under the executive order, about 11 million workers who did not have protections within their company or state gained them.

If the protection offered by the order from the Obama administration is removed, there may still be remedies in place. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has interpreted sex discrimination as covering both gender identity and sexual orientation. However, this still leaves employees at the mercy of how a court interprets Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as courts are not bound by EEOC positions.

People who are facing workplace discrimination may want to speak to an attorney so that they understand their legal rights and whether they are considered a member of a protected class. An attorney may also be able to explain how they might document incidents of discrimination. Legal advice might be helpful even if they are planning to try to first address the discrimination through supervisory or human resources channels at their company.

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