By Susan Keating Anderson
you look lately, LGBT rights are making headlines. States as diverse as
Wisconsin, Texas, Kentucky, Arizona and Kansas have been in the news for their legislative attempts to either increase or limit the rights of LGBT citizens.
a national level, there have been some major changes regarding LGBT
rights. Earlier this year, the U.S. government expanded the rights of
same-sex spouses in federal legal matters, and last year a U.S. Supreme
Court ruling struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which
had blocked federal recognition of gay marriages. In addition, the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services announced on March 14, 2014,
that, under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies who offer
benefits to opposite sex spouses must offer such benefits to same-sex
spouses by Jan. 1, 2015.
In Ohio in December 2013, a federal
judge ordered authorities to recognize gay marriages on death
certificates, despite Ohio’s ban against same-sex marriages. In April
2014, a federal judge ruled that Ohio must recognize same-sex marriages
performed in other states, and state lawmakers recently withdrew
legislation mimicking a controversial Arizona bill proposing to allow
those who assert religious beliefs to refuse service to LGBT community
Despite this changing landscape of LGBT rights in
other contexts, little has changed in federal or Ohio employment
discrimination laws as it relates to LGBT employees. Despite this, some
Ohio employers may elect to institute changes in their company policies
regarding LGBT employees. Ways employers can address LGBT rights
- Learning what laws currently apply. The reach of federal law is
evolving quickly in this area, and a handful of Ohio municipalities
already ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in certain
contexts. Employers should consult legal counsel to find out what laws
- Reviewing current policies to determine where LGBT rights might be
appropriately included. For instance, an employer with an Equal
Employment Opportunity (EEO) statement or policy may consider including a
statement prohibiting discrimination based upon sexual orientation or
gender identity. Such a statement might also be incorporated into sexual
harassment, workplace violence and anti-discrimination policies.
- Training employees, supervisors and subordinates alike (but in different training sessions), on the revised policies.
Many Ohio employers have determined that discrimination of any kind
can detract from employee morale, recruitment and retention, and,
ultimately, productivity. As employers have discovered over time, the
best business and employment decisions are based on objective metrics
and operational needs. Susan Keating Anderson is a partner in the Cleveland-area law firm, Walter | Haverfield LLP.