Strength in Compliance: Changes to Title VII

Title VII prohibits discrimination by employers against individuals based on color, nationality, race, religion, and sex. On June 15th, this important employment legislation grew to include members of the LGBTQ+ community. The much-anticipated change clarified that the definition of sex under Title VII includes sexual orientation and gender identity, fundamentally adding protections to ensure that individuals are treated equally in terms of employment, including hiring, firing, laying off, training, or disciplining.

The ruling specifically addresses ending unlawful terminations based on sexual orientation or gender identity; this was the case brought to the Supreme Court. That said, the ruling means much more for LGBTQ+ employees and it will likely mean changes to additional legislation in the near future. One key way that experts believe it will affect small businesses is in the expansion of medical benefits. This ruling means that medical services that employers are required to cover may expand. For instance, currently, an employer can choose not to offer plans that cover transgender medical benefits, and while this was not expressly stated, employees may have a fair argument that employers be required to offer these plans.

Title VII currently applies to any organization with 15 or more employees, and while this may not directly affect your small business, many state and local governments have chosen to implement legislation that extends these protections to smaller organizations. While it’s not entirely clear what this ruling will mean for faith-based organizations or when and how local and state laws will adapt, it’s best to be on top of the issue and ensure that your processes are ready and in compliance with this new ruling.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter Movement, many employers are already looking at their policies to ensure inclusiveness and a strong anti-discrimination and harassment stance. This is simply another branch on the same tree. Work closely with your team to take an in-depth look at your current policies, and see what you can do to proactively prevent and respond to all types of discrimination and harassment within your organization. Examining your organizational policies closely can strengthen company culture and ensure your employees and job candidates know that you are doing all you can to end micro-aggression and create an inclusive and supportive culture. Go beyond compliance to ensure that your policies are reflective of your organization’s ethics and culture.

Experts expect some challenges to Title VII changes and anticipate laws at the federal, state, and local level will adjust to become more inclusive. Educating yourself and your team as these laws are updated is the key to ensuring that your organization stays current and compliant. In addition, taking a close look at your policies to ensure inclusion and anti-discrimination wording can show employees and job candidates that you have their best interests in mind.

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