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Supreme Court Rules to Protect LGBTQ+ Employees from Discrimination

In a major victory for gay, lesbian, and transgender workers, on June 15 the Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ+ employees from discrimination. Nearly half of states in the US currently lack protections for the LGBTQ community, and the new ruling guarantees them federal protection.

The decision came after three cases were brought to the Court in which employees were allegedly fired for being gay or transgender. Each employee sued their employer, alleging sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 11th circuit court (covering FL, GA, AL) ruled that Title VII does not protect employees from discrimination for being gay, and ordered the case before them to be dismissed. The cases in front of the Second (NY, VT, CT) and Sixth (MI, OH, KY, TN) Circuits ruled that the cases before them could proceed. All three cases ended up before the Supreme Court.

The opinion, penned by Justice Gorsuch, found that protections for LGBTQ workers are covered under Title VII sex discrimination.

Consider, for example, an employer with two employees, both of whom are attracted to men. The two individuals are, to the employer’s mind, materially identical in all respects, except that one is a man and the other a woman. If the employer fires the male employee for no reason other than the fact he is attracted to men, the employer discriminates against him for traits or actions it tolerates in his female colleague. Put differently, the employer intentionally singles out an employee to fire based in part on the employee’s sex, and the affected employee’s sex is a but-for cause of his discharge. Or take an employer who fires a transgender person who was identified as a male at birth but who now identifies as a female. If the employer retains an otherwise identical employee who was identified as female at birth, the employer intentionally penalizes a person identified as male at birth for traits or actions that it tolerates in an employee identified as female at birth. Again, the individual employee’s sex plays an unmistakable and impermissible role in the discharge decision.

You can read the full decision here: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/19pdf/17-1618_hfci.pdf

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