April 12, 2019
This week, the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services held a hearing on the Equality Act (H.R. 5), with HR Policy Association and several other business groups weighing in in support of the measure, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes under the various anti-discrimination laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
In a strong letter of support, the Association stated: “Our members have a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and they take proactive steps to ensure their companies are fostering positive and respectful cultures, free from any form of discrimination. HR Policy Association urges Congress to pass the Equality Act, and we look forward to helping policy makers throughout the legislative process ensure that this final measure achieves its purpose and is consistent with the progressive practices that large companies have long embraced.”
Questions raised about data collection and other issues: Seyfarth Shaw's Larry Lorber, former Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, noted in testimony that “H.R. 5 is silent as to whether employers may request employees to set forth their sexual orientation or gender identity or in fact whether the EEOC will require that such record keeping commence,” and that Congress should address this and other issues so that employers and workers fully understand their rights and responsibilities. Mr. Lorber testified as an expert witness, neither supporting nor opposing the measure.
Outlook: The bill is expected to be passed by the House within the next few months. Senate action in the current Congress is considered unlikely.