Nathaniel M. Glasser, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Washington, DC, office, was featured in a Q&A discussion in the Washington Business Journal, titled “Local LGBTQ Entrepreneurs Tell Us What the Landmark Supreme Court Ruling Means to Them,” by Carolyn M. Proctor. (Read the full version – subscription required.)
Following is an excerpt:
Greater Washington is known to be more progressive than other parts of the country. But within the region, there were differences in the amount of protections previously provided to LGBTQ workers — depending on an employer’s headquarters address. So, we asked a local expert what effect the Supreme Court’s Bostock vs. Clayton County ruling would really have for D.C.-area employers going forward.
Nathaniel Glasser, a member of the firm in the employment, labor and workforce management practice in the D.C. office of law firm Epstein Becker & Green, offered his take, edited here for space and clarity.
What were the LGBTQ protections under D.C., Virginia and Maryland law and regulations before Bostock?
Prior to Bostock, D.C. and Maryland expressly included sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics under their respective human rights laws. While Virginia law did not cover sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination in the private sector, in the spring the General Assembly passed, and Gov. Ralph Northam signed into law, the Virginia Values Act, which, among other things, amended the Virginia Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. That amendment went into effect on July 1.
How did the previous laws or rules here compare with other parts of the country?
By passing the Virginia Values Act, Virginia became the first southern state to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Prior to that, approximately 20 other states prohibited sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in both the public and private sectors. These states include California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.
So then what, if anything, changes locally under the new Supreme Court decision?
Between the Supreme Court decision and the amendments to Virginia law, we should expect to see more complaints of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity filed in Virginia. While many multistate and national employers in Virginia already have policies prohibiting such discrimination, now that there is a viable path to litigation in that state, more employees may assert such claims. Equally significant is a change to the Virginia Human Rights Act that provides employees with a private right of action in Virginia state court, and we expect more claims to be brought solely under Virginia state law.