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This page provides a general overview of state and federal discrimination laws in Washington State, including examples of local government ordinances that address discrimination based on sexual orientation.


Discrimination can be a significant -- and unlawful -- barrier to a qualified person's ability to obtain a job, advance in his or her present job, or retain the job he or she already has. Both state and federal laws prohibit discrimination in the workplace. State law is enforced by the State Human Rights Commission and federal laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This page provides links to the applicable state and federal laws and to mechanisms available to seek enforcement.

Washington State Law

Under state law, everyone has the right to be free from discrimination at work, as well as in other situations. Discrimination occurs if an employer treats someone differently and denies him or her equal treatment or access because of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, marital status, family with children status, age, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability, honorably discharged veteran or military status or sexual orientation/gender identity. The State Human Rights Commission enforces the state laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, as well as in other areas, and complaints alleging discrimination should be filed with the Commission.

Below are links to applicable statutes and administrative codes.

Federal Law

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides information and links to:

Discrimination Based Upon Sexual Orientation

The State Human Rights Commission had its authority expanded in 2006 by passage of ESHB 2661 (Laws of 2006, ch. 4) , RCW 49.60.180. Since June 7, 2006, the Commission has been authorized to enforce laws prohibiting discrimination based upon a person's sexual orientation, in addition to other laws prohibiting discrimination.

Legal References

  • RCW 49.60.180 - Sets out unfair practices by employers, including discrimination based upon sexual orientation

Examples of Ordinances

 Recommended Resources

Below are links to resources from the Washinton State Human Rights Commission.

Last Modified: December 15, 2017