New federal and state laws concerning discriminatory hiring practices on the bases of gender or sexual orientation are drastically changing the landscape of employment law in the United States. It is important for companies to be aware that actions taken by their employees, even contractors and sub-contractors, may constitute employment discrimination under the widening scope of these prohibitions. If you have a question concerning a possible employment discrimination lawsuit, the defense attorneys at Hendrickson & Long, PLLC may be able to help.
Federal Regulations on Employment Discrimination
On April 8, 2015, Executive Order 13672 will go into effect for all federal contractors and sub-contractors. This new Executive Order, enforced by the Office of the Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the prohibited bases of discrimination from the previous Executive Order 11264.
These developments parallel similar state laws in West Virginia, though sexual orientation has not yet been listed as a prohibited basis for employment discrimination at the state level. However, there has been a movement in West Virginia to amend current regulations through the Employment and Housing Nondiscrimination Act to mirror the Executive Order and include sexual orientation and gender identity.
West Virginia Regulations on Employment Discrimination
The West Virginia Human Rights Act (§5-11-1 of the West Virginia code) makes it illegal for any employer to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, age, disability, religion, color, ancestry, national origin, and blindness.
What Actions Count as Discriminatory Practices?
The West Virginia code lists a number of hiring practices that may constitute a violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act, including:
- Discrimination with respect to compensation, hire, tenure, conditions or privileges of employment;
- Denying or limiting employment or membership through a quota system based on the prohibited grounds;
- Denying full or equal membership into a labor organization based on the prohibited grounds;
- Refusing, either directly or indirectly, the services of a place of public accommodation; or
- Engaging in any form of reprisal against any person because he or she has opposed a discriminatory practice or has filed a complaint or assisted with a discriminatory action.
Are Discriminatory Hiring Practices ALWAYS a Violation of the Law?
Not necessarily. There are certain circumstances that are excluded from discriminatory hiring prohibitions. Hiring of an employee based upon bona fide occupational qualifications, or based on applicable security regulations established by the United States or the state of West Virginia, does not constitute a discriminatory hiring practice under §5-11-9.
What Should I Do if I am Facing an Employment Discrimination Suit?
Employment discrimination suits are often complex and face a constantly changing legal environment, especially in West Virginia. These types of cases can hurt, or even ruin, your legal and professional reputation, as well as embroil you in costly and time-consuming litigation. If you or your company is facing an employment discrimination suit, contact the experienced defense attorneys at Hendrickson & Long, PLLC in Charleston, West Virginia to ensure that you have a speedy and positive resolution to your case.