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Supreme Court to consider civil rights law protections for LGBT

On Behalf of | May 2, 2019 | Firm News |

With the changes in politics come changes in the legal system. A recent announcement from the U.S. Supreme Court may have some people wondering if the current state of politics is best for the timing of the consideration of three discrimination cases.

The issue at stake: Does the Civil Rights Act protect LGBT employees from discrimination on the job?

Title VII

The specific portion of the federal law in question is Title VII, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on people’s “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” In the past, “sex” has always referred to whether a person is male or female. Now, however, three appellate courts have addressed whether “sex” also refers to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The cases

A gay skydiving instructor lost his job in New York when a client complained after he mentioned his sexual orientation during a lesson. The federal appeals court ruled that sexual orientation discrimination has at least some measure of motivation based on the sex of the person, and therefore, LGBT employees do qualify for protection under Title VII.

A transgender woman employed at a funeral home in Ohio lost her job and took the case to court, and the appeals court ruled that the action did constitute sex discrimination. The funeral home did not argue that the action was not discriminatory but that Title VII does not include transgender employee protection.

In Georgia, a gay man claimed that his employer fired him because of his sexual orientation. He did not win his case, in which the employer argued that the man had lost his job because of a job performance issue rather than a discriminatory issue.

The future

It took the Supreme Court four months to decide that it would take the cases. The ruling is likely to come during the presidential election campaign in 2020. Even if the outcome of the ruling is to exclude sexual orientation and gender identity from Title VII protection, Congress could still make changes to the law to create the protection.

Whether or not federal law ultimately grants LGBT employees the right to receive fair treatment by employers through Title VII, workers should not accept discriminatory treatment on the job. California state law does offer protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation.