An Ohio Appellate court just dismissed a claim for harassment based on an employee’s sexual orientation. The court in Inskeep v. Western Reserve Transit Auth. held Ohio does not recognize sexual orientation as a “protected category.” True enough. But many states and even Ohio municipalities (e.g. Cleveland) already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the societal tide is undoubtedly turning. The United States Supreme Court heard two cases this week about the legal rights of gays and lesbians. It is only a matter of time before sexual orientation makes its way into the federal anti-discrimination statutes.
Instead of taking a reactive “we’ll deal with this when we have to” approach, employers would be wise to stay ahead of the curve. Amend your policies to include sexual orientation as a protected category and include it in your training sessions. Why? Your employees will appreciate that you are an equal opportunity employer. And why would you tolerate discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation even if it is, for now, technically legal? It’s bad for morale, productivity, employee engagement, and on and on.