Traditionally, gay and lesbian employees in USA have found little in the law to protect them from discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Times are changing, however, and a growing number of employers are finding themselves responsible for providing a workplace that’s free of harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
While there is no federal law that prohibits this type of discrimination in private employment, an executive order specifically outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal government.
Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have laws that currently prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in private employment: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. (In addition, seven states have laws prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in public workplaces only: Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Pennsylvania, and Washington.)
Locally, more than 180 cities and counties nationwide prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in at least some workplaces — from Albany, New York to Ypsilanti, Michigan.
If you are a private employer and you operate your business in a state, county, or city with a law or ordinance prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination, you must follow that law despite the fact that there is no federal law in place.