If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you probably know that the question of whether federal law prohibits employment discrimination against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity remains open, which the Supreme Court may (or may not) resolve this year. While the EEOC continues to move forward in processing charges that allege discrimination on these bases, the current limbo in federal law has opened the door for state action.
Some states, like Pennsylvania and Michigan, have taken action to interpret their state anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ employees at the administrative level. Now it appears Virginia will be the latest state to take action at the legislative level.
Earlier this month, Virginia Legislature passed legislation to prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The bills passed the Virginia House of Delegates by a vote of 59-35 and the state Senate by a vote of 30-9. However, the two houses of the Legislature passed different versions of the legislation, which must now be reconciled. Until that is done, it remains an open question how broadly the legislation will cover Virginia employers.
Still, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is expected to sign the final version of the law, which would make Virginia the first state in the southern United States to legislate protections for LGBTQ employees in employment.
We will continue to monitor this legislation and provide updates. In the meantime, Virginia employers should planning to review their policies and practices now to determine compliance when a law is ultimately enacted.