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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 their present job, or retain the job they already have. 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.

Washington State Law

Under state law (RCW 49.60.180), 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 them equal treatment or access because of any of the following criteria (see definitions in RCW 49.60.040):

  • Race, including hairstyles and other traits associated with race or perceived to be associated with race;
  • Creed;
  • Color;
  • National origin;
  • Citizenship or immigration status (effective June 11, 2020)
  • Sex/gender;
  • Sexual orientation/gender identity;
  • 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; and/or
  • Honorably discharged veteran or military status.

To combat gender and wage inequality, RCW 49.58.100 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.

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 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 (WSHRC) is 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:

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

Examples of Anti-Discrimination Policies

For examples of anti-harassment and non-discrimination policies, see our page on Sexual Harassment.

Recommended Resources

Last Modified: April 02, 2021