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Legal Review: Amazon’s HQ2 has Created a Frenzy of Employment Law Questions

By employment law attorney Tom Spiggle, who is barred and practices in the state of Virginia, with The Spiggle Law Firm.

The competition for Amazon’s new headquarters — commonly known as HQ2 — has been fierce across the country. Of the contending cities, Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland are all near the top of the list which could be due to Amazon’s data centers located in Northern Virginia or Jeff Bezos’s home in Washington, D.C..

Unsurprisingly, the laws in the states being considered vary greatly. As the winning location is likely to see an employment boom — at least 50,000 new jobs for the headquarters alone, according to some reports — the rights of employees will become a primary focal point.

One of the clearest areas of difference will be laws related to workplace discrimination protections for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered) employees.

Of the 20 finalist cities, 11 are in states that have no laws extending workplace discrimination protections to LGBT individuals. These individuals have little to no recourse in the event they believe they were the subject of discrimination due to sexual or gender orientation.

It is surprising that over half of the cities identified as finalists are in states that lack these protections, given Amazon’s stance on equality for the LGBT community. However, this could a case where Amazon uses its financial power to exact political change. Most of the states on the list will be clamoring for Amazon to locate there and they may decide not to let a failure to provide equal rights to its citizens be the only impediment to serious economic growth.

If Amazon selects a state without these protections, individuals seeking to relocate for employment from a state with LGBT protections should be aware of how the difference in state law may impact them personally, from employment, to marriage, to estate planning.

“Whichever city and state Amazon selects will be impacted in both expected and unexpected ways,” said Tom Spiggle, an employment law attorney with The Spiggle Law Firm. “The employees they hire need to be aware that Amazon may have workplace rules that outline certain rights and conditions, but that state law controls. Being aware of how a state’s laws can impact you and your family will be very important.”

Another point to remember is that not only will Amazon be employing more people, but so will other businesses. Amazon may respect the rights of its LGBT employees in a state without those protections but other employers may not, so individuals considering relocation for an Amazon-related job may be faced with an even more challenging environment and need to be fully apprised of their rights.

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