In 1964, the landmark Civil Rights Act (Title VII) was passed guaranteeing protection from discrimination in the workplace based on a person’s sex, race, color, national origin or religion. On Monday of this week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear and decide three cases in the next term, answering squarely whether or not those protections should be expanded to cover discrimination based upon an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identification. The Court’s decision is likely to shape the employment landscape in this area for decades to come.
The rights of those employees that identify as either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered have been a hotly contested area in the employment world as societal norms evolve. Many federal Circuits, including the 7th Circuit covering Illinois, and the 2nd Circuit, encompassing New York, recognize that these issues are worthy of protection from discrimination in employment. Yet, other Circuits, such as the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, have taken a completely opposite view creating a split among the federal circuits, which will be settled by the Supreme Court Ruling. Whatever the decision, it will be the law of the land as it applies to Federal law on the issue.
Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not specifically mention sexual orientation or gender identity among its protected categories. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) has recently taken the position that the federal antidiscrimination laws should cover these actions. In contrast, the current Trump administration has taken the opposite view, arguing that a strict reading of Title VII makes no explicit mention of such protections.
The issue is likely to generate intense debate on both sides of the question and will likely be a clear test of the make up of the U.S. Supreme Court. For years, the Court has interpreted the prohibition against sex discrimination generously. Over the past 55 years, thanks to forward thinking reading of the law, Title VII has addressed the harms that Congress never foresaw, such as forbidding sexual harassment and gender stereotyping. The make up of the Court has changed now (some would argue showing a much more conservative bent) which may lead to a different result. In any case, the Supreme Court’s decision is likely to be made and announced during the summer of 2020, making it a hotly contested political issue in the next election.
Our law firm, Boznos Law, has consistently represented individuals in the LGBT community who have faced discrimination based upon sexual orientation. We believe these rights are guaranteed under Title VII and will continue that view. Equality under the law should apply to all individuals, not just those society deems worthy at any given point in time. We will continue to keep you informed as the decision by the Courts is made.
With over 34 years’ experience in advising employers and employees on workplace issues, let Boznos Law work with you to ensure you are ready to meet the challenges posed by the changes to the employment laws. Call Bill Boznos today at (630) 375-1958 or contact us at www.boznoslawoffice.com/contact-us through our website.