Oregon and Federal Laws Against LGBT Employee Discrimination
Many laws exist on the state and federal level prohibiting employment discrimination based on factors such as race, color, national origin, age, gender, and disabilities. Employment discrimination refers to any discriminatory employment practices such as bias in hiring, job assignment, promotion, compensation, and termination, as well as various types of harassment. In addition to these standard discrimination laws, twenty-one states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have enacted bans on discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or both. Oregon finally passed its own LGBT anti-discrimination law, the Oregon Equality Act, on April 19, 2007 after advocates had fought for the legislation for nearly 34 years.
Federal LGBT Discrimination Law
LGBT employees are not currently considered a protected class for the purposes of anti-discrimination under any federal law. The current proposed federal legislation is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would provide mandatory protection for LGBT employees but has been stuck in Congress for years without passage.
This legislation was first introduced in 1994 and has been brought before every Congress since then except one, but has always been defeated. Though the bill has bi-partisan and presidential support, staunch opponents have prevented its passage into law. However, political experts predict that the recent Supreme Court decision striking down DOMA and affirming federal recognition of same-sex marriage will work to quiet conservative opponents of ENDA. Though the DOMA decision only relates to federal benefits and not specifically to employee discrimination, many experts believe that the landmark decision will encourage the passage of LGBT non-discrimination laws on the federal level. Since providing federal benefits to same-sex couples is now the law of the land, it should hopefully only be a short time before employee non-discrimination laws follow.
LGBT Laws in Oregon
Though no federal LGBT anti-discrimination statute yet exists, Oregon does have its own law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, so LGBT employees in Oregon are protected on the state level. The Oregon Equality Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace, public places, and in regard to housing. The Act defines sexual orientation as “an individual’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or gender identity.” Complaints regarding workplace violations of this Act are brought before the civil rights division of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.
You do not even need to actually identify as homosexual to be protected under this law. In fact, one employee named Ramiro Martinez won a claim against his employer, Rose City Contracting, even though he identifies as heterosexual. Martinez claimed his supervisor harassed him due to perceived homosexuality based on him wearing an earring. When Martinez reported the harassment to another supervisor, he was fired in retaliation nine days later.
Whether you identify as homosexual or heterosexual, you should never have to tolerate workplace discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity within the state of Oregon. If you have been the victim of such discrimination or retaliation for opposing or reporting discrimination or harassment, a dedicated attorney at HKM Employment Attorneys will help you stand up for your rights.