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Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Generally, sexual orientation refers to a present or past preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality. It also includes individuals who may not be homosexual or bisexual, but who for one reason or another may be labeled as such.

A number of federal court decisions have held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also protects job applicants and employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. A few states have laws specifically prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. At present, there are 13 states and more than 200 municipalities (counties and cities) that also have laws that prohibit sexual orientation discrimination.

The 13 states that have laws prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in both private and public jobs are: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. Seven states have laws prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in public sector employment only: Illinois, Indiana, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington.

For complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation or status as a parent, Executive Order 13087, Executive Order 13152, and the Civil Service Reform Act provide protection. The Cabinet- level agencies also have issued policy statements prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. In addition, agencies have developed parallel EEO complaint procedures, allowing employees to file EEO complaints based on sexual orientation within their agencies. Employees should check with their agency to see if processes exist to handle these complaints. In addition, employees should check their respective collective bargaining agreements and their agency’s negotiated grievance procedures, to determine whether grievance procedures can be invoked to address these issues.

Office of Special Counsel (OSC)

Federal agencies, as well as their managers, should commit themselves to promoting a work environment that is free from discrimination based upon sexual orientation, in accordance with Executive Order 13087. Agencies should distribute the President's Executive Order to their employees and should notify them about avenues of redress. Employees should be encouraged to report to their supervisor instances of discrimination. When made aware of problems, supervisors should consult with their human resources office or agency legal counsel to ensure that appropriate steps are taken. All reports of incidents of sexual orientation discrimination should be taken seriously and addressed. In some circumstances, this may involve taking corrective steps or disciplining those who discriminate, as appropriate.

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