The U.S. Supreme Court recently handed a victory to gay, lesbian and transgender employees in California.
The Court concluded that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects members of the LGBTQ community from workplace discrimination.
Employers terminated gay and transgender employees
The Court decided a group of three cases. NPR explains that in two of the cases, employees asserted that their employers fired them for being gay. The third case involved a person who had worked as a male for six years. Soon after she announced she was transgender and would start showing up to work as a woman, her employer fired her.
Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bans employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin or sex. The Court acknowledged that when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, it likely did not take into account LGBTQ rights.
A majority of the justices determined that discrimination against someone for being homosexual or transgender constitutes discrimination on the basis of sex. In reaching this conclusion, the majority opinion relied on Title VII’s use of the word “sex.” The opinion also took note of other decisions that have applied the law broadly to sexual discrimination and harassment.
A dissent argued that the majority pretended to honor the law while modernizing it to reflect contemporary values.
Employers should update policies
The National Law Review recommends that employers review their policies to confirm compliance with this new rule. If necessary, businesses should update sexual harassment, equal opportunity and anti-retaliation policies. Employers should provide training to familiarize supervisors with this new law.
Title VII binds employers with 15 or more employees.