Governor Brownback Removes Employment Protections for LGBT State Workers

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback in an executive order Tuesday rolled back employment discrimination protections for state workers and then, with a second order, reinstituted most of the protections he had just removed.  The ones that were conspicuously absent were protections for Kansas state LGBT workers.  Those protections had been put in place in August of 2007 by Brownback’s predecessor, Democrat Kathleen Sebelius.  Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed an executive order extending employment protections for state workers to include sexual orientation in 2010.

Brownback explained the action by saying that “[t]his executive order ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous order did.”  The move drew immediate and harsh criticism from LGBT rights supporters inside and outside of Kansas, as well as large national groups such as the ACLU.  Those groups describe Brownback’s action as moving counter to growing trends in employment law.

This move only affected state workers, as Kansas’ private sector employers were never bound by the prior order.  Regardless, some see this move as sending a pro-employer message about removing additional categories of protections not otherwise provided for by law.  However, it is worth asking if that will be the actual effect.  Many employers have been advised to revisit and revise their employment policies and handbooks to include LGBT protections in order to stay ahead of trending law and agency action on employment protection.  Recently, the EEOC and DOL have shown an increasing willingness to expand LGBT protections on the grounds that they fall into subsets of sex discrimination.  These recent developments raise the question of whether Brownback’s move is in keeping with business interests or might instead create unnecessary confusion amongst employers regarding their own employment policies.

The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters, including those relating to drafting discrimination policies, for almost sixty years, and are available to discuss these issues and others.  As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.