Business News

US Supreme Court Backs LGBTQ+ Workers Rights

Paul Wright June 16, 2020

America`s highest court has made a landmark ruling that employers who fire LGBT+ workers for being LGBT+ are breaking civil rights laws. The Supreme Court said federal law, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, should be understood to include sexual orientation and gender identity. As expected lawyers for the employers argued that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was not not intended to apply to sexual orientation and gender identity. This was dismissed in a ruling that went 6-3 in favour of clarifying that Title VII was applicable to LGBT+ cases.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Judge Neil Gorsuch wrote. “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. “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 penalises a person identified as male at birth for traits or actions that it tolerates in an employee identified as female at birth.” The Supreme Court judgement means ”An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”

Gorsuch and chief justice John Roberts joined with liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to deliver the opinion, which left Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh dissenting. Gorsuch was a Trump administration nominee to the Supreme Court and given Trump`s socially conservative agenda, the ruling has an extra poignancy because of that.

“The Supreme Court’s clarification that it’s unlawful to fire people because they’re LGBTQ is the result of decades of advocates fighting for our rights. The court has caught up to the majority of our country, which already knows that discriminating against LGBTQ people is both unfair and against the law” said James Esseks of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The case of Bostock v Clayton County was the basis of the court session. Gerald Bostock was employed a child protection services co-ordinator in Clayton County, Georgia. A gay man, he joined the Hotlanta Softball league n January 2013. In June of that year he was fired for allegedly mishandling fiunds. A charge that Bostock says was untrue. He says that the real reason for his dismissal was him being gay .

He was not closeted at work and his participation in the gay sports league drew increased scrutiny to his identity. He sued the county for discrimination under Title VII. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as gender, race, colour, national origin and religion. At the time of the initial case a trial court and a federal court ruled that Title VII did not apply.

Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling it odes now. “What an amazing day,” Bostock told reporters. “Words cannot fully express how elated I am and how happy I am. This means that I will be going back to court,” he added, saying that he feels good about his chances.

Two other plaintiffs, Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor and Aimee Stephens, a funeral director, sadly died before their cases got to the Supreme Court, underlining how long the wheels of justice sometimes take to move. Zarda was fired after telling a client he was gay and Stephens was dismissed after she came out as transgender. Their loved ones are continuing to pursue their discrimination cases.