The protections provided for same-sex marriage have not necessarily meant that there are workplace safeguards for a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity in this country. The US Supreme Court will make a major employment law ruling on whether federal civil rights workplace protections apply to members of the LGBTQ community.
The Court will hear oral argument in Oct. in three cases. Two appeals address sexual orientation. These involve a gay man who was terminated from his Georgia child welfare services job and a gay man who was fired from his job as a skydiving instructor in New York.
The third appeal involves transgender rights. It pertains to a transgender woman who was fired from a funeral home in Detroit after she told her employer that she began her transgender transition.
The Court will determine the reach of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in these cases. This federal law prohibits age, religion, national origin, sex and racial discrimination in employment.
Federal appellate courts have issued different interpretations over Title VII. Some of these courts have ruled that its protections against sex discrimination extend to gay and transgender employees. Others have supported the employers who terminated these workers from their jobs.
The US Dept of Justice, some attorney general and Republican members of Congress submitted briefs and argued that Title VII does not extend workplace protections to employees for their sexual orientation or gender identity. According to their arguments, these protections were not considered when this law was passed in 1964. It was also argued that Congress and the states should ultimately determine what rights are extended to these workers.
Other members of Congress also argue that Title VII covers gay and transgender workers. In a supporting brief filed by 153 members, they said that there is a discrimination when a man is penalized for dating another man, but no employment action is taken against a woman who dates a man.
Even though Illinois law provides many extensive workplace LGBTQ protections, the Court could extend additional Title VII rights to workers in this state. Employees who believe they were subject to workplace discrimination should seek legal assistance to determine their rights under federal and Illinois law.