The Latest Supreme Court Decision Banning LGBT Employment Discrimination
The LGBT community has come a long way over the last few decades, as was made clear by the historic Supreme Court ruling of June 15, 2020, which upheld that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBT employees from discrimination based on sex, including gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination. In a surprising 6-3 ruling, liberal Justices Breyer, Ginsberg, Kagan, and Sotomayor were joined by Gorsuch and Chief Justice Roberts, while Alito, Kavanaugh, and Thomas dissented. If you’ve been a victim of sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, keep reading to learn more about the landmark decision and how our Rochester LGBT discrimination lawyer can help.
The cases under review included two lawsuits launched by LGBT discrimination lawyers on behalf of workers who were fired for being gay, while a third involved an employee fired for being transgender. While the 1964 Civil Rights Act doesn’t expressly include protections for members of the LGBT community, Gorsuch noted, in writing the majority opinion, that, “It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating … based on sex.” Since the 1964 Civil Rights Act does ban employment discrimination based on “race, religion, national origin or sex”, the majority opinion found that LGBT cases fall under this definition.
This is excellent news for the LGBT community and every LGBT discrimination lawyer that has been fighting not only a lack of legislation at the federal and state level (only about half of states have legal protections in place for LGBT workers), but the push by the current administration to roll back LGBT rights and protections. With the ruling, LGBT employees now have the weight of federal law as protection against workplace discrimination.
If You’ve Been A Victim of LGBT Employment Discrimination, We Can Help!
If you feel that you have been the victim of gender identity or sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, the best thing you can do is schedule a confidential consultation with a qualified LGBT discrimination lawyer. Our dedicated LGBT rights attorney at The Cimino Law Firm brings over 20 years of experience to the table, along with a commitment to providing compassionate representation and aggressive advocacy to protect your rights.
The Cases Under Review
In making their landmark decision, the Supreme Court reviewed three different lawsuits: Bostock v. Clayton County, Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In Bostock, plaintiff Gerald Bostock claimed that he was fired from his job as a child welfare coordinator in Clayton County, a position for which he had positive performance records, for being gay. He was fired within months of joining a gay recreational softball league, with Clayton County citing “conduct unbecoming a county employee” and saying that misspent funds were the reason for firing. Bostock sued, claiming their grounds for firing were nothing more than an excuse to fire him for being gay.
Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda involved similar circumstances. In this case, Donald Zarda, an employee of skydiving company Altitude Express, Inc., revealed that he was gay to a female customer, ostensibly to make her feel more comfortable about being strapped to him during a tandem skydive. The customer and her boyfriend allegedly complained, leading to Zarda’s firing for misconduct. Zarda filed a discrimination lawsuit in 2014, but was tragically killed in a skydiving accident later the same year, after which his family continued to pursue justice on his behalf.
The final case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, involved Aimee Stephens, who worked as a funeral home director for the Harris Funeral Homes group in Livonia, MI for six years. During that time, she presented herself as a male, but in 2014, she informed her employer that she planned to undergo sexual reassignment surgery, and that, following a planned vacation, she would return to work as a woman.
She was fired within two weeks of informing her employer that she was transgender, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agreed to help her file a lawsuit against the Harris Funeral Home group. Despite Stephens’ death in 2020, the case proceeded with funding from a trust fund established before her death. The Supreme Court ruling was delivered about a month after she passed away.
The Majority Opinion
When looking at Justice Gorsuch’s record, it should come as no surprise that he ruled in favor of protecting LGBT employment discrimination rights based on the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Gorsuch has been very clear that he follows the letter of the law. Said Gorsuch, in his lengthy opinion:
“Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. When the express terms of a statute give us one answer and extratextual considerations suggest another, it’s no contest. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.”
Indeed, LGBT discrimination lawyer Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law stated during arguments in October for Bostock and Zarda:
“When an employer fires a male employee for dating men but does not fire female employees who date men, he violates Title VII. The employer has, in the words of Section 703(a), discriminated against the man because he treats that man worse than women who want to do the same thing. And that discrimination is because of sex because the adverse employment action is based on the male employee’s failure to conform to a particular expectation about how men should behave.”
The Supreme Court agreed, voting 6-3 that sexual orientation discrimination is included in the broad language of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This is a major win for the LGBT community. Said Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, “One big lesson from this opinion is don’t give up. You have to believe that you can change things.”
While this ruling may not put an end to LGBT discrimination in the workplace, it is a step in the right direction, providing much-needed federal protections for a group that has long faced employment discrimination with very little recourse. If you believe you were fired for being a member of the LGBT community, it’s time to consult with a qualified LGBT discrimination lawyer like the experts at The Cimino Law Firm, which has helped countless victims of workplace discrimination.
The lead dissent, written by Justice Alito, joined by Thomas, accused the majority of basing their ruling on the “current values of society”, rather than the law. Alito further stated, “There is only one word for what the court has done today: legislation. The document that the Court releases is in the form of a judicial opinion interpreting a statute, but that is deceptive.” He noted that Congress has had multiple opportunities over the years to include Title VII protections for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”, but has failed to do so.
In a separate dissent, Justice Kavanaugh essentially concurred, saying that the power to amend the written law lies with Congress, not the judiciary, and noting that nowhere in the 1964 Civil Rights Act is sexual orientation discrimination expressly covered. Regardless of dissenting opinions, the Supreme Court decision is a major victory for the LGBT community. More work still needs to be done, but there’s hope now LGBT firings will be curbed, thanks to federal protections. At the very least, there is now legal precedent to fight such acts of discrimination, and our dedicated LGBT discrimination lawyer can help ensure your rights are protected.
Rochester LGBT Discrimination Lawyer Fighting For Your Rights
If you’ve been a victim of employee discrimination because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, now is the time to hire a reputable LGBT discrimination lawyer. At The Cimino Law Firm, we not only offer over 20 years of experience aggressively fighting to protect your rights, but we proudly take cases on contingency, which means you can pursue justice without any out-of-pocket expense. Contact us today at 585-347-6200 or online to schedule a confidential consultation.
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