The year is 2019, and 29 states still have no state law explicitly prohibiting discrimination against private employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has never passed in both houses of Congress, and federal circuit courts are split on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act includes discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity as forms of “sex-based discrimination.” Despite this, LGBTQ+ employees often have remedies they might not know of, and can often seek recourse through the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a state or local Fair Employment Practices Agency (FEPA), even if they do not have a claim under Title VII or protection under a federal, state, or local statute. Further, LGBTQ+ tenants, patrons, or students may be able to file with a state or local human rights agency regarding discrimination in housing, public accommodations, or educational institutions even if they cannot file with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Justice (DOJ), or in court. In addition to filling a gap in available remedies for LGBTQ+ complainants, these agencies often offer other benefits for LGBTQ+ complainants that courts do not, such as a lack of filing fees, a confidential process, or mandatory mediation. In this workshop, individuals from several state and local human rights agencies talk about the roles these enforcement agencies play in addressing discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals across the country, as well as the difficulties and successes they have experienced in working with their state or city’s unique anti-discrimination laws. They will also provide practitioners and legal services providers with tips and strategies for navigating the administrative processes of different jurisdictions. Special attention will be given to the practical challenges and political pressures these agencies face in enforcing the newest amendments to these laws to include gender identity and expression, personal appearance, protections for pregnant workers, and to ban potential employers from considering credit records or criminal history.
Speakers: Zachary Egan (New Jersey Division on Civil Rights); Eduardo Juarez (San Antonio Field Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission); Megan Stanley (Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations); Jaime Wojdowski (District of Columbia Office of Human Rights)