The House of Representatives passed the Equality Act (H.R. 5 – 116th Congress) this past Friday, May 17, mostly along party lines – the resolution passed with a 236 to 173 vote, with only 8 of the “aye” votes cast by Republicans.  The Equality Act would amend various civil rights laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Civil Rights Act”), the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and other laws regarding employment with the federal government, to explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics.
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Recently, the federal government has highlighted the issue of religious discrimination and accommodation in the workplace. Given the diversity of most workplaces, especially retailers, employers should be particularly sensitive to the potential risks of religious discrimination and harassment claims, as well as its obligations to accommodate reasonable religious-based requests for workplace changes.
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