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It’s Legal in 29 States to Be Fired for Being Gay (and Why That’s Bad for Business)

Topics: Current Events

Did you know that, even today, employers can legally fire or refuse to hire an person based on his or her sexual orientation in more than half the country? We’ll take a look at this shocking fact and discuss how workplace equality is, without a doubt, good for business.

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(Photo Credit: Lost Albatross/Flickr)

According to Human Rights Campaign, “It remains legal to fire or refuse to hire someone based on his or her sexual orientation in more than half the country — 29 states — and to base those same employment decisions on someone’s gender identity in 33 states.” In other words, if you identify yourself as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, then your employer can legally discriminate upon you in the workplace, with little to no legal implication, either.

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What about protection under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, specifically Title VII? Unfortunately, this act protects individuals from discrimination due to their “race, color, religion, sex, or natural origin,” not their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Thankfully, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has taken notice to this apparent “glitch” in the system as it pertains to the LGBT workforce. In its Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2013-2016, the EEOC lists “coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals under Title VII” as one of their top “emerging issues” and priorities for the coming years.

Many big names in the business world are incorporating policies that provide LGBT employees the same rights, privileges, and protection as non-LGBT employees, such as Bank of America, General Motors, and Hewlett-Packard. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation produces an annual Corporate Equality Index (CEI) that rates American workplaces on LGBT equality, and their 2013 report indicating that this year was the “first time that a majority of the Fortune 500 include both sexual orientation and gender identity protections.”

In fact, 99 percent of CEI-rated employers provide employment protections on the basis of sexual orientation, with 84 percent providing protections on the basis of gender identity or expression, according to the survey. Some of the top-performers in the corporate world are helping to achieve workplace equality for everyone.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc., is a definite supporter of ending workplace discrimination as he states in his Wall Street Journal interview, “If our coworkers cannot be themselves in the workplace, they certainly cannot be their best selves. When that happens, we undermine people’s potential and deny ourselves and our society the full benefits of those individuals’ talents.”

When companies refuse to acknowledge the adversities that result from workplace discrimination, they do more harm than good to their employees and, in turn, negatively affect a business’ success and potential. Cook points out that, “When people feel valued for who they are, they have the comfort and confidence to do the best work of their lives,” and that’s what makes for good business.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you experienced discrimination in the workplace due to your sexual orientation or sexual expression? Share your story with our community on Twitter or in the comments section below.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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