5 Top LGBT Workplace Trends In-House Counsel Need to Know

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on May 12, 2016 12:58 PM

The past few years have seen a major change in public attitudes towards and legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Last year, gay rights advocates won a stunning victory in the Supreme Court, as the Court recognized a constitutional right to marriage equality. This week, the Obama administration squared off against North Carolina, over the legal protections afforded transgender individuals.

These changes have a significant effect on the workplace, requiring updated policies or leading to new anti-discrimination suits, for example. Here's what in-house counsel need to know.

1. Bathroom Bias Battle Heats Up as North Carolina Sues DOJ

Transgender rights are in the news more than ever right now, and this time it's not because of Caitlyn Jenner or the TV series "Transparent." On Monday, North Carolina sued the Department of Justice after it threatened to withhold federal funding over the state's anti-trans "bathroom law." (The same day, the DOJ filed a suit of its own.) The class is one of the first major tests of the Obama Administration's argument that laws against sex discrimination encompass discrimination based on gender identity. Here's what you need to know.

2. Transgender Discrimination: Update Your Company Policies

When it comes to workplace discrimination litigation and transgender rights, the trend is towards recognizing transgender discrimination as sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Here are some updates you can make to your company's nondiscrimination policy, to help keep you on the right side of this somewhat novel interpretation of the law.

3. Is Your Company's Dress Code Discriminatory?

Even if you have a stellar anti-discrimination policy, you could still end up engaging in dress code discrimination. In today's office, a dress code can raise tricky issues around gender, identity, religion, and even race. Here's what you should be aware of.

4. For the First Time, EEOC Sues Over Anti-Gay Bias

The EEOC has recognized that anti-trans discrimination can violate the Civil Rights Act for a while now. (Since 2012, that is.) But it's taken them longer to categorize anti-gay bias as sex discrimination. And this year, the EEOC sued over anti-gay discrimination under the Civil Rights Act for the very first time. Here's why the agency changed its mind on sexual orientation discrimination, and why it matters for in-house counsel.

5. After Same-Sex Marriage, Do You Still Need Domestic Partner Benefits?

A few years ago, offering domestic partnership benefits was a way to set off your company as a progressive employer. But after Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark Supreme Court case legalizing gay marriage, are such policies still needed? Maybe.

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