Utah State Senator Steve Urquhart (R-St. George) is sponsoring a bill that would amend Utah’s employment and housing antidiscrimination statutes to address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Urquhart introduced Senate Bill 262 to the Utah Senate Rules Committee on March 1, 2013. Currently, several municipalities in Utah have ordinances prohibiting employment or housing discrimination against LGBT individuals, but there is no state-wide protection against such discrimination, nor is the state’s Labor Commission empowered to investigate or remedy any such discrimination.

S.B. 262 would amend the Utah Antidiscrimination Act to make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against or harass an otherwise qualified person because of that person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill defines “sexual orientation” as “an individual’s actual or perceived orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.” The bill defines “gender identity” as “an individual’s internal sense of gender, without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.” Utah’s Antidiscrimination Act applies to employers employing 15 or more employees but does not apply to religious organizations or associations. S.B. 262 would also exempt organizations “engaged in public or private expression if employing an individual would affect in a significant way the organization’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints protected” by the First Amendment from the definition of “employer.” Thus, certain advocacy groups would not be required to employ LGBT individuals under S.B. 262 if doing so was inconsistent with their mission and would significantly affect their ability to advocate their viewpoints.

S.B. 262 also contains provisions aimed at dress codes for transgendered employees and whether an employer can require proof that an individual is legitimately seeking protection as a transgendered individual. The bill specifies that an employer may require an employee undergoing gender transition to adhere to the same dress or grooming standards for the gender to which the employee has transitioned or is transitioning. If an employer has reason to believe that an applicant’s or employee’s gender identity is not “sincerely held,” S.B. 262 specifies that the employer may require the person to provide evidence of his or her gender identity, such as medical or counseling records. With respect to restroom use at the workplace, S.B. 262 provides that the employer must provide access to a restroom that is consistent with the employee’s gender identity, though an employee undergoing gender transition has the burden to provide notice to the employer of his or her gender transition in order to receive protection under this provision.

S.B. 262 also empowers the Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division to investigate and address violations of the Utah Antidiscrimination Act based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Whether or not S.B. 262 will make it out of committee and eventually become law remains to be seen. Stay tuned for updates on the bill’s progress.