In recent years, many states and municipalities across the United States have sought to enact statutes and ordinances to include "sexual orientation" amongst the classes traditionally protected from discrimination. West Virginia (WV) has followed suit. WV Senate Bill 77, introduced on February 15, 2017, similarly sought to amend the West Virginia Human Rights Act and the West Virginia Fair Housing Act to include "sexual orientation" as a protected class and prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace in WV, in places of public accommodation, and in housing.
Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace in WV: The Current Law
Generally speaking, the West Virginia Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment and in places of public accommodation on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness, disability, or familial status. Similarly, the West Virginia Fair Housing Act prohibits the refusal to sell or rent housing on the same bases.
Proposed Protections Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace in WV
If enacted,WV Senate Bill 77 would have prohibited workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation in WV or, as the bill defines it, on the basis of "heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, or gender identity or expression, whether actual or perceived." The final phrase of this definition tracks other anti-discrimination measures in that the proposed legislation not only would have prohibited discrimination against an individual because of his or her actual sexual orientation, but it also would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in WV founded on an employer's or a seller/lessor's perception of that individual's sexual orientation.
Exceptions in WV Senate Bill 77
It is worth noting that WV Senate Bill 77 would not necessarily have applied to discrimination based on sexual orientation in WV by all employers or sellers/lessors. Rather, organizations that are exempt from religious discrimination under Title VII of the United States Code would not be prohibited from discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation."
If you have questions about the current law on sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace in WV, contact Nathanial Kuratomi or one of the other experienced labor and employment lawyers at Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC by filling out a contact form or by calling 866.617.4736.