House Passes Equality Act

On February 25, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Specifically, the bill states that “existing federal statutes prohibiting sex discrimination in employment (including in access to benefits), healthcare, housing, education, credit, and jury service also prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination.”

The Equality Act would amend Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to codify the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia that barring sex discrimination in the workplace also protects LGBTQ employees from being fired or disciplined based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  

The Bostock ruling specifically addressed hiring, firing, and disciplinary actions by employers. However, Title VII also prohibits employers from discrimination when it comes to the provision of “fringe benefits,” which have been defined by federal regulations (29 CFR § 1604.9) to include “medical, hospital, accident, life insurance and retirement benefits; profit-sharing and bonus plans; leave; and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.” 

The Equality Act would expand Title VII protections for LBGT+ individuals beyond employment and housing, however. The bill has broadened the categories of protection to include federally funded program and “public accommodations” – e.g., retail stores, transportation providers, public venues, and more.

President Biden has said that passing the Equality Act is one of his top legislative priorities during the first 100 days of his presidency. Since taking office in January, President Biden signed an executive order that federal agencies must not discriminate against LGBT+ people.

The bill has been sent to the Senate where its fate is unclear, despite support from business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. The bill faces opposition from religious groups that see it as an infringement on religious freedom.

HBL has experience in all areas of benefits and employment law, offering a comprehensive solution to all your business benefits and HR/employment needs. We help ensure you are in compliance with the complex requirements of ERISA and the IRS code, as well as those laws that impact you and your employees. Together, we reduce your exposure to potential legal or financial penalties. Learn more by calling 678-439-6236.

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Hall Benefits Law, LLC

HBL offers employers comprehensive legal guidance on benefits in mergers and acquisitions, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), executive compensation, health and welfare benefits, healthcare reform, and retirement plans. We counsel a wide spectrum of clients including small, mid-sized, and large companies, 401(k) investment advisors, health insurance brokers, accountants, attorneys, and HR consultants, just to name a few. HBL is passionate about advising clients, and we are dedicated to our mission: to provide comprehensive, personalized, and practical ERISA and benefits legal solutions that exceed client expectations.
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