Over the past several years, legislatures in California and across the country have expanded rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. These rights have been instrumental in allowing members of the GLBT community to be on an equal footing with other people.

Most recently the United States Supreme Court has struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act which prohibited the federal government from recognizing gay marriages. With these new freedoms some in the federal legislature believe that the federal government must go further in protecting the rights of GLBT individuals — particularly in the area of employment.

Under current federal laws it is not illegal to discriminate against a person at work based on their sexual orientation. However, new legislation in the Senate is looking to change that. If passed this law would keep employers across the nation from discriminating against an employee because that employee is gay.

While similar legislation has been introduced every legislative session since 1994, some say that this year it has a very good chance at passing the Senate since it has received endorsements from conservative Senators. However, the bill will include an exception for religious groups.

As members of the GLBT community around the country wait for new protections to be passed, California employees should know that they are already protected by state law. In California employee laws prevent employers from discriminating against someone based on their sexual orientation.

If employees face this type of discrimination, they may have legal remedies. Depending on the facts in each case, California employees that are subject to workplace discrimination may be eligible for compensation.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, “Bill to protect gays at work advancing in Senate,” Carolyn Lochhead, Oct. 28, 2013