Supreme Court History-Making Decision Impacts Employers

Jul 08 2020

The Supreme Court made history last month when it ruled that discrimination “on the basis of sex” will now include protections for sexual orientation, transgender, and gender identity. This makes it unlawful to discriminate against people in these new protected classes. For employers, this means it is illegal to discriminate against or terminate an employee for being gay, transgender, or non-binary. As a business owner, here is what you need to do to ensure your business is welcoming and inclusive for everyone:

Speak to your leadership team and re-visit your company’s culture goals
Employing managers who believe in and support your vision for the company is a critical part of your success. It’s important that your team understands what is expected from them regarding hiring and managing their teams—particularly when it comes to the kind of behavior and language they allow. Be very clear about your expectations for company culture and ensure your management team is on board.

Review your employee handbook and update policies, being sure to use fully inclusive language
Your employee handbook should refer to your company as an Equal Opportunity Employer and it should define what that means. You’ll also want to ensure that all of the newly protected classes are mentioned in your handbook, and that it is clear these new classes are welcomed and protected from discrimination.

Examine EPLI and Professional Liability Policies
If you have Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) and/or professional liability insurance, take a look at your policy. These policies are what protect your business should you receive a discrimination, harassment, or unlawful termination suit filed against you. If you already have a policy in place, research the language to ensure it includes the newly protected classes (gay, transgender, and non-binary). If you aren’t sure, reach out to your broker and ask for more clarification. If you don’t have an EPLI or professional liability policy in place, it would be wise to get one as the cost of employment-related lawsuits usually far outweighs the annual premiums.

Offer updated discrimination and harassment training that includes the new protected classes
You should be doing regular training with your team on discrimination and harassment, but many business owners are so busy that training often takes a backseat to revenue generating activity. Make it a priority to provide updated training on harassment and discrimination. Your training should include examples of what can be considered harassment and discrimination. Make it clear that these behaviors are not tolerated and be vocal about the consequences for people who violate company policies.

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