When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, framed by the beaming faces of lawmakers and activists, he knew he had a truly historic piece of legislation in front of him. For the first time, Americans couldn’t be discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability ― even “genetic information.”
But, as we’re seeing today, “historic” isn’t a synonym for “comprehensive.” Citizens such as those in the LGBTQ community need protections that the America of 1964 wasn’t yet prepared to give. In the absence of explicit federal updates to employment discrimination bans, well-intentioned states and cities have jumped in with their own legislative remedies. The result, however, has been a patchwork of protections varying greatly from region to region.
We’ve teamed up with Monster to explore those workplace discrimination protections with the greatest disparities in state and federal coverage, highlighting where you’re more likely to be fully covered by the law if you don’t resemble today’s typical CEO and are hoping to secure that all-important job offer.
Thirteen states scored 0 in our assessment, while nine states plus the District of Columbia scored 4 out of 5 or higher. What should we make of the wide disparities in workplace protections from state to state? For one thing, more action is necessary.
Constituents can reach out to their representatives in Congress regarding comprehensive federal legislation, such as the LGBTQ-friendly Equality Act, which can resolve the current patchwork of state laws and help achieve equal career opportunities for all job seekers, across the country. “They will provide uniform protections as an existing baseline to ensure that no one is fired for facing discrimination,” says Rose Saxe, senior staff attorney at the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project.
But in the meantime, know your rights. Keep an eye out for inappropriate questions if you’re in the midst of a job search ― even seemingly innocent ice-breakers like “do you have kids?” or “when did you graduate from college?” are on legally shaky ground.
And in the event that an employer does cross a line, resources like the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that responds to civil rights violations in the workplace, are available to help you determine next steps. “If you live in an area without statewide protections and experience discrimination, know that there may be legal remedies available,” Saxe advises, “and contact a legal expert to help you figure out any recourse.”
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