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Bill would extend employee rights to gay and transgender workers

When the United States Supreme Court overturned the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June, the decision was hailed by many as a landmark ruling. Many Missouri small business owners viewed the decision as positive because it overturned provisions of DOMA that essentially mandated workplace discrimination against employees in same-sex marriages. But most believe the Supreme Court's ruling does not go far enough to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees.

Under current laws, workers in Missouri can be fired from their jobs or otherwise discriminated against in their employment on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The potential for discrimination does not stop at the workplace doors. Current laws also do not protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in housing or public services. That means someone can be evicted from their home or denied public services simply for being gay.

According to the non-profit organization Small Business Majority, a large majority of Missouri small business owners believe the state should pass legislation protecting gay and transgender employees from workplace discrimination. The Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA) would provide such protections by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of one's sexual orientation or gender identity. It would apply to discrimination in the workplace as well as to housing and public accommodations. Many small employers believe the passage of this legislation will help them attract and retain qualified workers to the state for the long term.

Current state and federal law protects discrimination in employment on the basis of one's protected class status. Protected classes include race, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability. An employment law attorney may be able help those facing workplace discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity obtain a fair settlement against their employers.

Source: St Louis Post-Dispatch, "Missouri Nondiscrimination Act protects gay, transgender people", July 18, 2013

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