Many watched with concern as the United States Supreme Court appointees have become increasingly conservative with a strong push from the president and the Republican U.S. Senate. So civil rights advocates were pleasantly shocked when the court handed down a 6-3 ruling that protects gay and transgender workers from discrimination in the workplace.
The ruling answers the question regarding the meaning of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination at businesses with 15 or more employees based on race, national origin, sex, or religion. A complication was trying to define sex or gender of transgender and gay workers. “It is impossible,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote, “to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”
A firing offense
California has long led in laws to protect workers, but 26 states had laws that made it legal to fire workers for being gay or transgender even though they could legally marry. This landmark ruling thus extends protection to millions of workers.
This ruling will have an impact in countless ways outside the workplace as well. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services recently undid protections of transgender patients against discrimination by hospitals, medical staff and insurance companies. While recent proclamations from the White House have walked back the rights of transgender and gay people to serve in the military, this ruling protects these servicepeople.
The effect here in California
The state is one of 22 that already protects LGBTQ workers’ rights regarding sexual identity and sexual orientation. However, more than 8 million workers nationwide will now be able to file discrimination suits through the federal courts.
Not much else changes
Employers here in California will essentially see no changes to how they handle issues regarding gay and transgender workers. Those with questions specific to their work environment and employees still serve their best interests if they consult with an attorney with experience handling business and employment issues here in California.