Does federal law prohibit my company from discriminating against employees or applicants who are LGBT?

No. Although there has been significant traction among the states in passing legislation allowing for expanded marital rights, particularly following the Supreme Court’s recent overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), on the employment side of the civil rights equation sexual orientation is not protected by federal law.

Federal contractors, however, and employers in certain states and municipalities may be restricted from discriminating against applicants and employees because of their sexual orientation. In July 2014, President Obama issued Executive Order 13762, prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. On December 3 the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it would be issuing agency regulations to provide details regarding the implementation of President Obama’s Executive Order.

On the state side of the equation, many states have protections for workers because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Examples include: Illinois, Minnesota, California, Iowa, and Wisconsin (sexual orientation only). In addition, well over 100 cities and municipalities have anti-discrimination protections in place as well.

Finally, it is worth noting that the EEOC has taken the position in the past several years that sex discrimination, which is clearly prohibited by current civil rights laws, can be applied to cases of LGBT discrimination.


Thompson Coe’s Tips of the Week are not intended as a solicitation, do not constitute legal advice and do not establish an attorney-client relationship.