by Max Brantley
The EEOC wasn’t always involved in LGBTQ issues. But over the past few years, it came around to a different interpretation of what qualifies as sex discrimination. Originally, bans on sex discrimination were taken to by and large protect women. Nowadays, the EEOC argues that LGBTQ people are protected by bans on sex discrimination, because discrimination against LGBTQ people is, fundamentally, rooted in expectations of how people of certain sexes should act — whether it’s whom they should love or what their gender identity should be based on the sex assigned to them at birth.State law in Arkansas allows discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The legislature and Gov. Asa Hutchinson further demonstrated a belief in discrimination with 2015 legislation to give people who discriminate a religious pretext to do so and also banned local non-discrimination efforts. If this reminds you at all of the bad old 1960s when the states stood up to protect racial discrimination, it should.
With that interpretation, the EEOC has been involved in thousands of cases over the past several years regarding anti-LGBTQ discrimination, netting millions in settlement agreements and helping change employers’ policies.
With the release of a report on workplace harassment, EEOC is going further, calling on employers and employees to take charge of stopping workplace harassment — against not just LGBTQ people but also women, racial and religious minorities, and people with disabilities.