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Supreme Court Will Rule Whether Civil Rights Law Protects LGBT Employees

May 5th, 2019 Victoria Breese

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people who identify as gay and transgender from workplace discrimination. This ruling will show how the court’s new conservative majority will handle LGBT issues. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission argues that the law does guarantee protections for LGBT workers. On the other hand, the Trump administration argues that the law cannot be interpreted to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The law itself states that employment discrimination is illegal “on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Some claim that “sex” includes the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity. Others argue that sex only refers to the biological sex someone is born as, rather than how a person identifies later in life.

LGBT Discrimination Cases

One case to be brought before the court is “Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda.” Mr. Zarda, New York skydiving instructor, brought this case before the court because he claimed to have been fired because he was gay. A female customer had complained about being strapped tightly to Mr. Zarda during a skydive. In an attempt to reassure the customer, he told her not to worry because he was “100 percent gay.” His case initially lost and was appealed to the Supreme Court. One judge argued that “sexual orientation discrimination is motivated, at least in part, by sex and is thus a subset of sex discrimination.” Another judge argued that, although he “would be delighted to awake one morning and learn that Congress had just passed legislation adding sexual orientation to the list of grounds of employment discrimination,” that Congress did not include this category in the law.

Implications of This Ruling

Although judges have their own personal stances on LGBT issues, they must interpret the laws as Congress has written them. The words sexual orientation, gender identity, and LGBT are not in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So, this court decision must determine whether sexual orientation and gender identity are categories that fall under “sex discrimination,” as mentioned in the Civil Rights Act. If the court decides that these are forms of sex discrimination, then people who identify as LGBT will be protected under the law in the same way as other protected groups. If the court rules that LGBT discrimination is different than sex discrimination, these categories will not be protected under the law. However, Congress can amend the Civil Rights Act at any time or pass new legislation that specifically states that people who identify as transgender and gay are protected from workplace discrimination. So, even if the court does not rule in favor of this issue, Congress can still outlaw LGBT discrimination in the future.

Seek Legal Assistance Today

If you have experienced sex discrimination in the workplace, seek legal assistance today. The Working Solutions Law Firm, located in New York City, can assist you. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.