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New legislation would protect employers’ faith-based decisions

Federal laws regulate employment in Texas and around the country. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect employees from discrimination based on race, sex, nationality or religion in the workplace. In light of the new U.S. Supreme Court ruling that makes same-sex marriages legal, many wonder how employment regulations will be affected. A proposed House bill called the First Amendment Defense Act seeks to allow employers to make employment decisions based on their religious beliefs regarding marriage, according to its supporters.

Theoretically, employers would be able to make decisions regarding workers who are in same-sex marriages based on personal religious beliefs because the proposed legislation uses a definition of marriage that limits the union to a man and woman and reserves sexual activity for those who are in this type of legal relationship. If this bill passes, companies that get federal funding would be able to make these faith-based choices without fear of retribution.

Critics have expressed concern that the new legislation would allow discrimination and weaken the civil rights of women in the workplace, as well as the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers. For example, some believe that the language of the bill that limits sexual activity to marriage would allow corporations to terminate those who engage in sex out of wedlock. This would primarily affect single pregnant women, they claim.

Changes in employment regulations often have far-reaching and unforeseen side effects. Employers who are uncertain about how current legislation affects their industry practices may want to speak to an employment litigation attorney before developing policies and procedures intended to protect from lawsuits.

Source: Huffington Post, “Bill That Lets Bosses Fire Single Women For Getting Pregnant Gains Steam,” Dana Liebelson, July 17, 2015

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