Workplace discrimination is prohibited by law, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone, by any means.
While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provided protections in the workplace on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability and “even ‘genetic information,’” according to the Huffington Post, that doesn’t mean that the way is free and clear for any jobseeker—or that all employers are in the clear when it comes to relying solely on what they think they know about the laws protecting employees against discrimination.
Cities and municipalities have sometimes passed their own legislation when explicit federal updates to employment discrimination bans have not stepped in to provide more specific protections—for LGBTQ employees, as an example.
As a result, protections vary widely from place to place, with notable differences in coverage not just from city to city or state to state, but from region to region within the country.
In a joint project with Monster.com, the Huffington Post reviewed workplace discrimination protections with the greatest disparities in state and federal coverage to see where employees get the most (or least) protection under the law.
The project ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on how strong legal protections are for five different factors.
Each state got one point for each of the five it protects—a whole point if it does so for all or nearly all employees within the state, or only a half point if it does so only for public sector employees.
They were ranked for having fewer protections, at 0–1.5 points; some protections, at 2–3.5 points; strong protections, at 4–4.5 points; and very strong protections, at 5 points.
Some parts of the country (and some states) did far better in protecting employees than others, with 13 states getting a 0 and only 9 states and D.C. managed 4 out of 5 or higher; the northeast by far did the best, while the south did the worst.
Read on to see the types of discrimination requiring protection and where the states ranked in doing so.
5. Providing family leave.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 covers this—but obviously not terribly well, since so few states in the country mandate some form of paid family leave. In the northeast, only New York (ranked as a 4.5) and New Jersey (ranked as a 5) did so.
Connecticut and Rhode Island each scored a 4; Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont scored 3; New Hampshire got a 2 and Pennsylvania only got 1.
4. Providing reasonable accommodation for pregnant workers.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is the relevant national legislation here, and more states address this than provide family leave.
In the northeast, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island all require employers to provide some kind of accommodation for pregnant workers.
In the south, Washington, D.C. and Maryland, both ranked at 4, have the same requirement, while Texas extends that protection only to some public sector employees and has the lowly score of 0.5 as a result.
West Virginia, at a rank of 1, Louisiana, at 2.5, and Delaware, at 3.5, also address this.
In the Midwest, Illinois and Minnesota, both ranked 4, and North Dakota and Nebraska, both ranked 1, require it.
And in the west, Alaska, with a rank of 1, Utah and Hawaii, ranked 3, and California, ranked 5, also require it.
Incidentally, California is one of the four states requiring paid family leave.
3. Increasing wage and salary transparency.
Covered by the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act of 2009, such protection is mandated by Connecticut, New Jersey, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, 2.5-ranked Louisiana for public sector employees only, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota, California, Oregon and Colorado.
2. Banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers this, which is protected by Connecticut, New Jersey, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin (ranked at 1), Hawaii, Washington, New Mexico, California, Oregon, Utah, Colorado and Nevada.
Pennsylvania does protect against such discrimination, but only for public sector employees, as do North Carolina (ranked at 0.5), Kentucky (ranked at 1), Louisiana, Virginia (ranked at 1), Indiana (ranked at 1), Alaska, Arizona (ranked at 0.5) and Montana (ranked at 1).
1. Banning discrimination based on sexual identity.
This too is covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Again Connecticut, New Jersey, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York (while only for public sector employees, the current attorney general has said it must apply to all employees), Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Hawaii, Washington, New Mexico, California, Oregon, Utah, Colorado and Nevada.
Pennsylvania does protect against such discrimination, but only for public sector employees.
North Carolina ostensibly protects against it, for public sector employees only, but passed that notorious “carve-out” bathroom bill.
Kentucky, which only ranks at 1, also does so for public sector employees only, as do Delaware, at 3.5, Louisiana, Virginia, Indiana, Montana (ranked at 1).
Note that even if there’s no specific legislation to beware of, the Huffington Post warns that “in the event that an employer does cross a line, resources like the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that responds to civil rights violations in the workplace, are available to help [employees] determine next steps.”
Rose Saxe, senior staff attorney at the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, was quoted in the report advising employees, “If you live in an area without statewide protections and experience discrimination, know that there may be legal remedies available, and contact a legal expert to help you figure out any recourse.”