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President faces pressure to ban sexual orientation discrimination

Discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation is a sad reality in this country. Unfortunately, this happens in employment both in hiring and on the job, and this is not banned by federal law--unlike discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sex and other categories.

Since the federal government has thus far failed to outlaw employment discrimination against gay people, many states have banned this with local legislation. Florida, however, is not among them. This area of federal law may soon evolve as gay rights advocates are currently pressuring the president to at least ban federal contractors from discriminating against gay employees.

It is unclear how the Obama administration will react, given that last year the president did decline to issue an order to bar gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination at companies that have government contracts. Nonetheless, during his inaugural address this week the president announced his support of gay rights.

If the president does issue an executive order, it would not ban all employers from sexual orientation discrimination; it would only affect those employers working directly with the federal government, as Congress would likely need to act to implement anything broader.

It will be interesting to watch this issue unfold. For now, it is important that workers know that even though federal and state law may fall short of protecting workers from this type of discrimination, individual companies may have policies against it. Additionally, mistreatment on the basis of one's sexual orientation may fall under another employment law protection. For example, harassment, sexual harassment, wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress are all illegal. Therefore, anyone who is experiencing sexual orientation discrimination in Florida may have a claim under an overlapping category, and it may be wise to seek legal counsel to protect one's rights.

Source: Associated Press, "LGBT advocates seek ban on employment discrimination," Jan. 24, 2013

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