In June, a divided Supreme Court ruled in favor of extending federal discrimination protections to LGBTQ workers from employment discrimination. This decision marks a substantial shift. LGBTQ activists throughout the country have fought for decades to see revisions of this kind made to Title VII. While the four liberal Justices ruled in favor of the decision, they were also unexpectedly joined by conservatives Justice Roberts and Justice Gorsuch.
Supreme Court Bans LGBT Employment Discrimination
The decision, authored by Justice Gorsuch, stated that broad federal law addressing discrimination involving the termination of workers should be extended to LGBTQ individuals. As a result, an employer who terminates a worker solely for being gay or transgender can be found in violation of the law. This law marks a substantial step forward for LGBTQ rights, in line with the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2015 Obergefell decision recognizing same-sex marriage.
Justice Gorsuch also commented that legislators who drafted the law might not have anticipated their efforts would result in such efforts because the law mentions “sex” but does not address whether this includes gender identity or sexual orientation.
The Cases that Led to the Decision
The decision is the result of one gender-identity and two sexual-orientation lawsuits. The primary case involved a child-welfare services coordinator who was terminated after becoming involved in an LGBTQ softball league. The court also involved a gay skydiving instructor who was terminated due to his sexual orientation and a funeral home that terminated a worker after she expressed plans to return from a vacation as a woman.
The Impact of the Decision
The Supreme Court’s decision will likely have a substantial impact given that more than half of the states currently do not have anti-discrimination laws protecting individuals based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Based on data provided by the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law’s Williams Institute, over half of the country’s 8 million LGBTQ residents are living in states lacking anti-discrimination laws.
The decision also comes during a time when many have believed that the Supreme Court had shifted to the right following the appointments of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. Another issue that is likely to be impacted by the ruling is a regulation recently finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services that removed both abortions and LGBTQ individuals from non-discrimination protections found in the Affordable Care Act.
Dissents in the Case
As part of its decision, Justice Alito commented that the majority was functioning as a legislature and consequently disrupting Congress’s role. The dissent also commented that the ruling could have unforeseen results, which could end up impacting bathroom and locker room access as well as create issues with religious groups and university housing.
Justice Kavanaugh also wrote a dissent, which similarly expressed the belief that it was Congress’s role to amend Title VII. The dissent also recognized that the ruling was a substantial advancement for the rights of LGBTQ individuals.
Speak with a Compassionate LGBTQ Rights Attorney Today
If you are an LGBTQ worker who suffered adversely from job discrimination, you should make sure to retain the assistance of an experienced employment law attorney. Contact the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe LLP today to schedule a free case evaluation.