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Employment Discrimination and the Equality Act

On February 25, 2021, the House of Representatives proposed the Equality Act. If passed, the act would amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. As of this writing, the bill has not yet gone for a vote in the Senate, but if passed, the ramification for LGBTQ+ workers will be immense. If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community and you have experienced discrimination on the job, you may find yourself with more options to address that wrong.

What It Means If The Act Passes

While South Carolina has its own sweeping antidiscrimination provisions, known collectively as the South Carolina Human Affairs Law (HAL), it doesn’t specifically have its own counterpart for the federal Title VII or the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Because of this, it uses federal legislation in many employment-based cases. Most employers have enough employees to be bound by either the HAL or Title VII. But as of this writing, neither of those laws protect those discriminated against due to sexual orientation or gender identity. 

While the Supreme Court decided in Bostock v Clayton County (2020) that Title VII’s protections against sex-based employment discrimination applied to LGBTQ+ workers, codifying that ruling in legislation remains a high priority. This is because Supreme Court rulings can be overturned, while it is much more difficult to repeal a law. The Equality Act would effectively cement Bostock’s ruling if it can pass the Senate.

What Are My Options?

While it’s possible that the Senate will fail to pass the Equality Act over technicalities, it’s worth noting that if it does pass, LGBTQ+ people who are discriminated against on the job in South Carolina may be able to use it to file discrimination complaints. You will be able to do so with either the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), just as others may do with other antidiscrimination laws like the ADA or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

If the Act fails, you may still be able to use Bostock to file an employment discrimination claim in the appropriate court. The ruling holds that discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is inappropriate because those who discriminate on this basis are not accepting certain conduct (for example, attraction to men) in LGBTQ+ people, while they accept it in heterosexual cisgender people. If you can establish the chain of events necessary, you may be able to receive compensation for what you have been through.

Call A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney

While the ultimate fate of the Equality Act will depend on the votes in the Senate, it’s important to keep in mind that even if it fails, LGBTQ+ workers do have options to pursue if they have been discriminated against. In addition, having an experienced attorney on your side can make a huge difference in determining how to proceed. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and the firm of Hitchcock & Potts has handled many of these cases, and we can offer dedicated and compassionate representation. Contact our offices today to schedule a consultation.

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