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BOSTON—Avoid questions about marital status. Confront contractors who refuse to hire LGBTQ employees. Don’t assume that a manager’s religious objections to LGBTQ employees trumps the latter’s right to a workplace free of discrimination.
Those are among the suggestions that Michael Cohen, a partner with the Duane Morris law firm in Philadelphia, gave for interviewing and managing LGBTQ applicants and employees during his presentation at the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2015 Diversity & Inclusion Conference & Exposition.
During his session on Oct. 27, Cohen offered advice for avoiding discrimination claims based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Organizations that are wildly successful—they get this stuff,” Cohen said. “They understand the importance of providing protections for LGBTQ employees.”
When it comes to legal protections for LGBTQ workers, Cohen said, it’s important to know that while federal law doesn’t explicitly provide protections, several state and local laws do, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has made several determinations that workers were discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Federal courts throughout the country have and will allow [LGBTQ discrimination] claims to go forward under a sex-stereotyping or gender nonconformity theory,” Cohen said. “Which means … regardless of where you’re operating, there’s a very real risk of getting sued and losing a lawsuit.”
To avoid EEOC claims or lawsuits, Cohen offered these tips:
Dana Wilkie is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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