Currently, no federal law exists to protect an individual from employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This means an employer can fire, refuse to hire, demote, or refuse to promote solely because an individual is gay, bi-sexual, or transgender. However, there has been increasing support over recent years for the added protection of both classes.
In fact, President Obama recently amended Executive Order 11246 (Equal Employment Opportunity) and Executive Order 11478 (Equal Employment Opportunity in the Federal Government), prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This prohibition affects 24,000 companies, approximately 28 million employees, and altogether impacts about 1/5 of America’s workforce.
On the state side, only 18 states have anti-discrimination statutes that include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. Idaho is not one of those states. As a result, a LGBT activist group, Add The Words, has staged protests and advocated for adding the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the Idaho Human Rights Act. Adding such words would protect members of those classes from workplace discrimination in Idaho.
Although the state of Idaho does not currently protect sexual orientation and gender identity classes from employment discrimination, a growing number of states are enacting such protections, and Idaho may not be too far away from following their lead. Even without these required protections pursuant to any law, it is still a good business practice to treat all employees equally. It is best to disregard sexual orientation and gender identity when considering whether to hire, fire, demote, or promote.
It is important to note that even though the state of Idaho does not currently protect members of the above classes, the following Idaho cities have ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity: Boise, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls, Ketchum, Moscow, Meridian, Nampa, Pocatello, Sandpoint and Victor. The cities of Lewiston and Twin Falls have ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation only.
INSIGHTS FOR EMPLOYERS
Please contact a Gjording Fouser lawyer at 208.336.9777 if you would like any additional information about this topic or any other employment issues facing your company.