Maryland bans workplace gender identity discriminationNews added by Benefits Pro on April 4, 2014

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By Dan Cook

Maryland’s already-expansive workplace anti-discrimination law will add yet a new dimension when it goes into effect in October.

The state legislature passed legislation adding “gender identity” to the long list of conditions that are protected by the state. Currently, the Maryland law bans workplace discrimination based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, or genetic information.

The state defines “gender identity” as a “gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of an individual regardless of an individual’s assigned sex at birth.”

Under the new measure, an employer will no longer be allowed to refuse to hire someone or discriminate against them on the job in any way based on the person’s choice of gender identification.

“The law does not prohibit an employer from requiring an employee to adhere to reasonable workplace appearance, grooming, and dress standards that are directly related to the nature of the employment of the employee, as long as the dress is consistent with the employee's gender identity,” wrote attorneys Michael Stevens and Karen Vladeck of Arent Fox LLP in a Mondaq article. “Therefore, a restaurant, for example, could require all employees to wear black, but it could not require a genetically female employee to wear dresses if that requirement ran contrary to her gender identity.”

California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia also have laws on the books banning workplace discrimination based upon gender identity.

In a celebrated recent case, the gender-defying TV/radio star B. Scott sued the BET Awards for gender identity discrimination. Scott is seeking $2.5 million in damages from BET for treatment Scott claimed was discriminatory during his correspondence role during the 2013 BET Awards. The case is pending.

According to court documents and Scott’s blog, BET replaced Scott in mid-show in a dispute over his wardrobe. Scott claims BET wanted him to appear more masculine than feminine and that the attire Scott chose, while pre-approved by BET, was deemed too feminine during his first appearance on the awards show. Although Scott agreed to change into “men’s clothes,” he was not asked to go on-air again during the show.

The amended Maryland law also bans gender identity discrimination in the areas of housing, credit, and public accommodations.

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