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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.

New legislation: To combat gender and wage inequality, ESHB 1696 (effective July 28, 2019) prohibits employers from seeking the wage or salary history of an applicant from the applicant or from their current or former employer. However, if the applicant voluntarily discloses wage or salary history, the employer may confirm that history. The employer may also seek information after an offer of employment with compensation has been made. Additionally, after an offer has been made, the employer must provide the minimum wage or salary information for the position, if the applicant requests it.


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

Since 2006, the State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC) has been authorized to enforce laws prohibiting discrimination based upon a person's sexual orientation, in addition to other laws prohibiting discrimination. See RCW 49.60.180.

For additional information on discrimination based upon sexual orientation, see the following WSHRC's resources:

For information on sexual harassment and examples of anti-harassment and non-discrimination policies, see MRSC's page on Sexual Harassment.

Examples of Codes

The below codes include "sexual orientation" in the definition of harassment/discrimination to be consistent with RCW 49.60.180(1).

Recommended Resources

Last Modified: July 05, 2019