Landmark LGBT Discrimination Case Heads to Supreme Court
Sept. 17, 2019
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers around the country from discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. While many states, including California, have put into place stronger protections across a wider range of protected classes, Title VII remains a powerful tool for keeping workplace discrimination in check across the country. As acceptance of different lifestyles has grown across the country, many courts have taken discrimination based on “sex” to include discrimination based on sexual orientation, especially given Supreme Court precedent regarding same-sex marriage. Not all courts have come down the same way, however, and now the Supreme Court is poised to address the issue directly. Read on for details about the workplace discrimination case and the scope of federal anti-discrimination law, and contact a dedicated San Bernardino employment discrimination attorney if you’ve been unlawfully discriminated against at work.
Supreme Court to hear arguments on cases involving gay, lesbian and transgender workers
On October 8, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a pair of issues that have the potential to change the landscape of federal anti-discrimination law. The cases, titled Altitude Express, Inc. v Zarda, Bostock v Clayton County, Georgia and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, concern workers who were fired based on their sexual orientation. Two of the cases concern men who were fired after their employers discovered they were gay, and the third concerns a transgender woman who was fired from a funeral home. Two of the petitioners won at the circuit court level while one lost. The circuit split led to the Supreme Court taking up the questions.
The cases turn on the definition of “sex” in Title VII. The plaintiffs argue that even if the Court sticks to “sex” as being defined by biology and genetics, gay and trans workers are still treated unequally. While some courts have gone further to include “sex” to include “sexual orientation,” the plaintiffs here claim such a reading is not necessary; quite simply, a man who chooses to marry a man is treated differently from a woman who chooses to marry a man. Likewise, firing someone for being transgender entails treating someone differently because of whether they comport with behavioral and dress standards for a particular sex. The defense, on the other hand, claims such a reading expands Title VII beyond its original text and purpose which, they argue, was limited to employment actions that treat members of one gender (male or female) better or worse than the other.
Anti-discrimination activists are concerned that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority may lean against the more expansive reading of Title VII’s protections. Whether their fears will be borne out remains to be seen. The Court typically takes at least a couple of months to issue an opinion after oral argument. There is no set schedule for when opinions are issued, although decisions are generally released by late June of the following year and often come out during the spring.
The Law Offices of John D. Lueck is a trusted Rancho Cucamonga workplace discrimination law firm with more than 42 years of service to clients in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties. These cases are highly sensitive and require experienced representation to ensure your rights are protected. If you or someone you know has been the victim of discrimination in the workplace, contact Rancho Cucamonga employee rights lawyer John D. Lueck for a free initial consultation.