The Supreme Court announced yesterday that they have agreed to hear a group of high profile cases regarding the rights of gay and transgender individuals in the workplace. These cases are aimed to determine if existing federal laws banning sex-based discrimination applies to cases of sexual orientation or gender identity.
In particular, the case will look at whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, applies to LGBTQ+ employees. Another case regarding transgender rights will evaluate whether transgender individuals are protected themselves or if their cases fall under “sex stereotyping.” The cases that will be heard are Altitude Express v. Zarda, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC. The two sexual orientation related discrimination cases will be consolidated into one oral argument.
Currently, lower federal courts are split as to whether sexual orientation and transgender identities are protected under sex-discrimination, with multiple contradictory lower court rulings currently in effect. While the Trump administration has argued that Title VII does not apply to LGBTQ+ individuals, the government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission affirms that these people should be protected under the law.
Sarah Warbelow, the legal director of the Humans Rights Campaign argues that “the impact of this decision will have very real consequences for millions of LGBTQ people across the country.” The Human Rights Campaign reports that in half of the country, states legally allow for sexual orientation-based job discrimination. This case could overturn these laws, or allow for all individuals to be discriminated in the workplace.
These cases will be heard fall of next year, with the decisions likely not made until after the 2020 election. These cases are highly anticipated as this ruling with have significant effects on current state laws surrounding sexual orientation based workplace discrimination. Furthermore, these rulings will have constitutional and legal implications for the reach of Title VII.
Media: SCOTUS 2019; Politico 2019; CNBC 2019