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LGBT Rights In The Workplace: There Is Still Work To Be Done

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October in the United States is LGBT History Month.

This is a perfect time to appreciate and reflect on all the progress that LGBT Americans have made in asserting and protecting their civil rights. It’s also a good time to focus on the progress that still needs to be made. 

Unfortunately, the workplace is one of the last places people feel comfortable being open about who they are. This is tragic as people spend a large percentage of their time at work and the stress of leading a secret life can be tremendous. 

No employee should be forced to conceal their true identity in an attempt to avoid unwarranted backlash or discrimination from coworkers and supervisors. 

The Current State of LGBT Rights In The Workplace

Not all states provide protections against LGBT discrimination. In fact, there are 28 states where an employee can still be fired – yes, FIRED – for nothing more than being gay. 

The full, shameful list: 

  1. Michigan
  2. Idaho
  3. Montana
  4. Wyoming
  5. Arizona
  6. Alaska
  7. North Dakota
  8. South Dakota
  9. Nebraska
  10. Kansas
  11. Oklahoma
  12. Texas
  13. Louisiana
  14. Arkansas
  15. Missouri
  16. Tennessee
  17. Mississippi
  18. Alabama
  19. Georgia
  20. Florida
  21. South Carolina
  22. Kentucky
  23. Indiana
  24. Ohio
  25. Pennsylvania
  26. West Virginia
  27. Virginia
  28. North Carolina

Right there in bold is Michigan. However, there are some exceptions that affect the rights of LGBT Michiganders. For example, an Obama administration executive order protects federal employees and contractors from discrimination. 

On The Horizon

An ongoing legal case could lead to anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace being illegal from sea to shining sea. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to review Hively vs Ivy Tech College, a case involving Kimberly Hively, a lesbian college professor who claims she was discriminated against by her employer

A three judge panel reviewed the case in July and ruled that LGBT discrimination isn’t protected against by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The 7th Circuit vacated this ruling and will begin hearing arguments on November 30. 

Hively vs. Ivy Tech College, combined with disputes over the proposed Equality Act in Congress, could result in the United States Supreme Court ultimately deciding the fate of LGBT workers throughout the nation who do not currently enjoy legal protection. 

We will be keeping a close eye on these developments as we continue to fight for the rights of workers of all sexual orientations.