In a highly anticipated decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which is the federal law that bans certain forms of employment discrimination, applies to LGBT workers. In New Jersey and New York, LGBT workers have been protected by state laws against discrimination for many years. This latest development, however, may give certain worker important additional options.
The Supreme Court case was actually a consolidation of three cases from the lower courts. In one, a county government employee in Georgia was fired shortly after he joined a softball league for gay men. In a second, a skydiving instructor in New York was fired shortly after his employer discovered he was gay. In Michigan, a funeral home fired a trans woman who after six years on the job announced her intention to begin, as part of her transition, dressing in accordance with the employer’s rules for female attire.
All of these situations, according to the court, represented impermissible forms of sex discrimination under Title VII. The majority opinion stated that 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. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision exactly what Title VII forbids.”
The U.S. Supreme Court held that the ban on sex discrimination in the federal employment law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, covers employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender identity.
The Court’s decision will have significant consequences in the majority of states, which do not include anti-LGBT discrimination protections as part of their state-level employment discrimination laws.
For employers in New Jersey and New York, the Supreme Court’s decision may not have much practical effect as the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and New York State Human Rights Law already prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The decision may, however, shift some litigation from state to federal courts.