Tag Archives: employment discrimination

Missouri May Ban Employer Discrimination against Gun Owners

In the same way citizens are protected from discrimination because of race, sex, national origin, color, age, disability, ancestry or religion, Missouri legislators want to ban discrimination against gun owners. HR professionals need to be aware of this potential legislation and its implications when making hiring and employment choices.

Proposed Legislation to Protect Gun Owners

The Missouri bill protecting the rights of gun owners was sponsored by Wanda Brown. The bill passed the Missouri House by a wide margin in March of 2011. Similar legislation banning discrimination against people who own guns is being proposed in other states and is sponsored by the National Rifle Association.

However, this proposed legislation is meeting with some opposition both in Missouri and in other states where gun owners’ rights are coming into question.

Opposition to the Legislation

Opponents of this legislation are concerned both about its ramifications and about whether it is necessary:

  • Some companies are concerned that this type of legislation will lead to more discrimination lawsuits and will hinder efforts to create jobs.
  • Some lawmakers wonder if it is really necessary, since there are few cases of discrimination of this type in the workplace
  • Other lawmakers feel that workplace discrimination against sexual orientation need to be addressed, instead of gun ownership, since that is a more pressing discrimination issue.

Arguments in Favor of Legislation

Wanda Brown, the sponsor of the bill in Missouri, states, “We would never consider giving up our First Amendment (free speech) rights for a job. Why should we give up our Second Amendment rights?”

For her and other lawmakers, this bill simply supports the Second Amendment right to own a gun.Ms. Brown is acting in part because of concerns on the national level. President Barack Obama’s survey for job candidates in high ranking positions includes a question about gun ownership. The question is: “Do you or any members of your immediate family own a gun? If so, provide complete ownership and registration information. Has the registration ever lapsed? Please also describe how and by whom it is used and whether it has been the cause of any personal injuries or property damage.”Employers asking questions of this nature could potentially lead to adverse employment action being taken against individuals who exercise their right to own guns.

Human Resources Action

Human resource professionals need to be aware of pending legislation that will make it illegal to discriminate against gun owners. Passage of such legislation will prohibit any pre-employment questions about gun ownership or any other type of discrimination in the workplace.

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Missouri May Ban Employer Discrimination against Gun Owners

In the same way citizens are protected from discrimination because of race, sex, national origin, color, age, disability, ancestry or religion, Missouri legislators want to ban discrimination against gun owners. HR professionals need to be aware of this potential legislation and its implications when making hiring and employment choices.

Proposed Legislation to Protect Gun Owners

The Missouri bill protecting the rights of gun owners was sponsored by Wanda Brown. The bill passed the Missouri House by a wide margin in March of 2011. Similar legislation banning discrimination against people who own guns is being proposed in other states and is sponsored by the National Rifle Association. However, this proposed legislation is meeting with some opposition both in Missouri and in other states where gun owners’ rights are coming into question.

Opposition to the Legislation

Opponents of this legislation are concerned both about its ramifications and about whether it is necessary:

  • Some companies are concerned that this type of legislation will lead to more discrimination lawsuits and will hinder efforts to create jobs.
  • Some lawmakers wonder if it is really necessary, since there are few cases of discrimination of this type in the workplace.
  • Other lawmakers feel that workplace discrimination against sexual orientation need to be addressed, instead of gun ownership, since that is a more pressing discrimination issue.

Arguments in Favor of Legislation

Wanda Brown, the sponsor of the bill in Missouri, states, “We would never consider giving up our First Amendment (free speech) rights for a job. Why should we give up our Second Amendment rights?” For her and other lawmakers, this bill simply supports the Second Amendment right to own a gun.

Ms. Brown is acting in part because of concerns on the national level. President Barack Obama’s survey for job candidates in high ranking positions includes a question about gun ownership. The question is: “Do you or any members of your immediate family own a gun? If so, provide complete ownership and registration information. Has the registration ever lapsed? Please also describe how and by whom it is used and whether it has been the cause of any personal injuries or property damage.”

Employers asking questions of this nature could potentially lead to adverse employment action being taken against individuals who exercise their right to own guns.

Human Resources Action

Human resource professionals need to be aware of pending legislation that will make it illegal to discriminate against gun owners. Passage of such legislation will prohibit any pre-employment questions about gun ownership or any other type of discrimination in the workplace.

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Massachusetts Expands Anti-Discrimination Laws to Cover Trans-Gendered Workers

In November of 2011, Lexologyreports that the Massachusetts legislature passed abill  extending anti-discriminationprotections to those who are trans-gendered. Employers in the state ofMassachusetts need to be aware of and comply with this new law, as they do withall civil rights laws that protect employees.


Discrimination and Protected Status

While Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the AgeDiscrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) provide broad protection on a federallevel against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin,age, disability and gender, federal laws do not expressly prohibitdiscriminating against someone because of his or her sexual orientation orbecause he or she is trans-gendered. This means that these issues are regulatedon a state-by-state basis and in states with no express anti-discriminationlaws declaring sexual orientation or trans-gendered status as a protectedclass, employers have no legal obligation not to discriminate.

More and more states are, however, taking protection to preventthis type of employer behavior. In states with anti-discrimination laws, thegeneral rule is that people may not be discriminated against on the basis oftheir newly protected status in the terms or conditions of employment. Thisincludes hiring, firing and treatment at work both by supervisors/managers andby other employers. An employer who permits the creation of a hostile workenvironment, such as by looking the other way if other employees are unkind,can also be subject to a lawsuit for discrimination.

It is important for all employers to keep abreast of any changesin the law that could impact their anti-discrimination obligations. Inaddition, it is simply best practice not to discriminate at all.

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Disparate Impact Discrimination: Chicago Learns a Costly Lesson

According to an August 17 article in the Chicago Sun Times, the city of Chicago has been ordered to pay a damage award of at least $30 million and to hire no less than 111 African American firefighters who had been bypassed for jobs on the Department in 1995. Further, the city may need to repay between $10 million and $20 million in back pension expenses for those hired, resulting in a total cost to Chicago and to the taxpayers of over $50 million. The $30 million damage award will be distributed among approximately 6,000 individuals who took a 1995 exam for placement with the department.

The Liability of the Chicago Fire Department


The Chicago fire department is required to pay these costs due to a court ruling stipulating that they had discriminated against African Americans. The charge of discrimination stemmed from the fact that the city established a cut-off score of 89 on their 1995 exam and then hired at random from the 1,800 applicants who had done the best on the test. Approximately 78 percent of the pool of candidates from which the city chose were white, resulting in the department remaining predominately white.  

Anti-Discrimination Laws and Disparate Impact

Chicago found itself on the hook for discrimination charges because their test had a “disparate impact” on African Americans. Disparate impact is considered to be a form of discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Under the rules for disparate impact, even a policy or examination that appears facially neutral can be considered discriminatory if it disproportionately disqualifies minorities.

This means that even if Chicago’s entrance exam did not have any overt discrimination inherent within it, it could still be a violation of Title VII. Those bringing disparate impact cases do not need to show any intentional discrimination took place. All they need to show is that the test had a disproportionate effect on African Americans.

In disparate impact cases, once a plaintiff has shown a disproportionate impact, the only way in which an accused defendant can avoid liability for discrimination is to prove that the test or the policy had a bona fide occupational purpose. In other words, the test- and the way it was administered- had to have been directly related to the ability to do the job.

Take-Away Lessons

The lesson HR professionals and employers can learn from Chicago’s expensive damage award is that all businesses have the obligation under the law of making sure they are truly equal opportunity employers. If you are administering any type of testing or have pre-screening requirements for applicants, you must make sure that those requirements are not disproportionately disqualifying people of a protected race, gender, religion, national origin or other protected status.

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