Washington Amends Law Against Discrimination to Include Sexual Orientation

January, 2006

This January, Washington State amended its law against discrimination to specifically prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which includes heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and gender expression or identity. Under the amendment, gender expression or identity is defined as "having or being perceived as having a gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression, whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the sex assigned to that person at birth."

While Oregon protects sexual orientation by court ruling, and several cities and counties in Oregon and Washington protect sexual orientation under local ordinances, Washington's new amendment establishes far more protections. This law is set to be effective 90 days after Washington's governor signs the legislation.

Employers in Washington or employers who have employees in Washington should review and revise their policies and practices to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. This law should also be incorporated into anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training for all employees.


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