Equality Arizona

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Mary Jo O'Neill

Live from the Equality & Justice ConferenceMary Jo O’Neill, Regional Attorney for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), discussed the past and present of LGBTQ equal employment rights.

40% of LGBT folks experience discrimination. LGBTQ workplace discrimination is still legal in 29 states.

Individual employers can be helpful and supportive of LGBTQ individuals. 96.8% of Fortune 500 companies prohibit discrimination based on orientation; 57% prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression (up from 3% in 2000). Numbers drop for smaller businesses.

There are protections against employment discrimination.

In 2012, the EEOC began working to expand coverage for LGBTQ individuals using Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination against employees because of sexual orientation.

“Passing the ENDA [the Employee Non-Discrimination Act] would be a huge statement on a national level, but it’s not absolutely necessary because we’re now using Title VII [to file discrimination charges against employers] effectively.”

O’Neill encouraged members of the LGBTQ community experiencing discrimination to file charges with the EEOC office. Doing so creates a “justice impact,” not only for the LGBTQ individual, but also on the employer and the wider community.

“LGBTQ people have been told for decades that they have no civil rights when it comes to workplace discrimination,” said O’Neill. “Under Title VII, that’s just not true any longer.”