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How Utah Workplaces Will be Affected by LGBT Antidiscrimination and Religious Freedom Law

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Judy Fahys
/
KUER

A landmark law takes effect Tuesday that aims to balance religious freedom and protections for LGBT Utahns against discrimination in the workplace.

Under the new law, Utah employers cannot discriminate or take adverse actions against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Monica Whalen is President and CEO of the Employers Council, an association of Intermountain businesses that offers employment law consultation and advice.

“I do think this new law absolutely will embolden and perhaps give more security to LGBT identified individuals, that perhaps some of the hurt and unfairness and disrespect will come out of the shadows and employers will be forced to face it and deal with it,” Whalen says.  

But that’s not all employers will have to deal with. The law allows for workplace expressions of religious belief or personal conviction so long as they are not disruptive or take the form of harassment. The law also includes protections for employees who express their views when they’re not on the job. Attorney Matthew Durham specializes in employment, and he says there will likely be litigation as employers try to navigate these gray areas.

“Where is the line between reasonable expression of religious belief and harassment? Where is the line between allowing reasonable off duty conduct and finding something that’s in direct conflict of the business interest of the employer? I think it’s probably likely that there will be a need for courts to weigh in on some of the questions,” Durham says.  

Both Durham and Whalen say litigation can be avoided in most cases by employers educating themselves on the law, and by fostering a work environment that allows for respectful differences in beliefs.

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