Full Disclosure: When Are We Allowed to Not Say Everything?

One of my friends was telling me about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the story of her second pregnancy, which she refused to disclose to her employers until after she had signed her contract for tenure at Rutgers (because in 1964, you could be fired for being pregnant).

With that story in mind, I have some questions I’d like to pose for thinking:

  • Are we under any obligation to disclose private information in order to get a job?
  • Do employers have any right to ask about private information?
  • If they have the right to know, what can they do based off of that knowledge?

You are under no obligation to tell your employer during the interview process that you are LGBTQA, but the catch comes if the employer asks directly. Refusing to answer the question, or saying that the question is inappropriate is usually justification enough for the employer to turn you away. In states where it is legal to not hire or fire someone based on identity, you can sue for discrimination, but it is extremely difficult to prove that your boss fired you based on discrimination. It typically comes down to “he said, she said” and how nice the judge is.

Employment nondiscrimination laws are a major ethical problem in the US. Federal employees are protected from being fired based on their sexual or gender identities by a law President Obama signed in 2015, but this does not extend to private employers and their relationship with their employees. Most states without nondiscrimination laws are in the Midwest and the South (really, is anyone surprised?).

There are no laws protecting LGBTQA employees the same way there are laws protecting race, sex, religion, and disability. So, yes, in some states it is completely legal for your boss to fire you because you are LGBTQA.

A survey by the William’s Institute found that 75% of LGBTQA employees experienced harassment in the workplace, and 16% lost their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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