Employers who hire people based on their race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or disability should have a better understanding of the law, according to an employment discrimination law professor at the University of Oregon.
The law professor, Michelle LeBaron, says employers who discriminate based on those factors should not rely on the Oregon Employment Equity Act (EEA), which she says is a “slippery slope” that could result in employers being able to “disproportionately exclude” their employees based on race, gender or disability.
The EEA “sets out a standard for discrimination that employers must meet in order to be protected from employment discrimination,” LeBary told Business Insider.
The Oregon Employment Equality Act is a civil rights law that “protects against discrimination on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, religion or disability,” Lebary said.
But she also noted that the law does not explicitly address racial discrimination in the workplace.
Employers can also be subject to discrimination claims if they fail to comply with state laws protecting workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
For instance, some states have “anti-discrimination” laws that protect workers from being fired for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according, to LeBarry.
The California Employment Standards Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission both define sexual orientation as “a person’s physical, mental or psychological orientation that differs from the person’s sex assigned at birth.”
LeBari says that in general, employers who fail to follow state laws regarding sexual orientation should be considered in breach of the EEA.
However, “if an employer has a discriminatory purpose to exclude employees based solely on sexual orientations or gender identities, then the employer must also have a discriminatory motive to do so,” LeBraron said.
“This is a slippery slope that can be easily used to discriminate against people who are in good faith.”
Employers that discriminate based in part on race or ethnicity can also face lawsuits if they violate the law.
Under the Fair Housing Act, for example, an employer cannot exclude people based solely upon their race or religion, LeBario said.
LeBaria noted that discrimination against people based upon race or ethnic origins is common in the United States.
For example, LeBlary noted that a survey conducted by the National Urban League found that at least 40% of African Americans and Hispanic Americans say they have experienced racial bias in the job market.
According to LeBlario, employers may also be able to claim that an employee’s race or gender identity is “disparate” because of their sexual orientation.
This can lead to an employer claiming that they have a “disorderly workplace” if the employee is transgender, she said.
The Federal Equal Employment Act (FEA), LeBair said, protects employees based “on a person’s bona fide occupational qualification, or other bona fide connection to a job that is related to the job position, such as the person is engaged in the profession of medicine, law, journalism, social work, or any other profession that requires a specialized training in a specific field.”
However, LeBararon noted that employers can also claim that sexual orientation is “discriminatory” under the FEA.
Employer discrimination based solely in part of sexual orientation “is illegal and could be a violation of the Civil Rights Act, Title VII, and Title IX of the federal Equal Protection and Civil Liberties Act of 1978,” LeBarary said, adding that employers may be liable for discrimination based “based on a sexual orientation.”
But LeBarian said that employers should not use the FEAs protections to discriminate based solely based on sex.
Employees who use sexual orientation to justify exclusion of employees based purely on sexual identity could face an “unjustified” wage penalty, Le Bary said in an interview with Business Insider, because sexual orientation does not meet the definition of “discrimination.”
The FEA does not provide for an exception for employers who “disclose to a prospective employee, in good good faith, information concerning a person with a disability,” according to LeBararian.
In addition, the FEa does not specifically address sexual orientation discrimination.
“It’s a very narrow definition,” Le Bario said, pointing out that sexual orientos are only “discussed in terms of race or sexual orientation” when it comes to employment discrimination.
If an employer refuses to provide any information or documentation that would allow an employee to identify himself or herself as being LGBT, Le Barary said that the employer may be able claim “discrimination based on a sex, gender identity, or sexual preference.”
If the employer does not offer any information about an employee who is transgender and is not eligible to receive benefits under the Civil Right Act, such an employer could also claim “sex discrimination” under Title VII.
“The EEA specifically protects against discrimination based upon sex