In a victory for LGBT workers across the nation, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex under federal law.
Although a number of states, including Iowa, have long prohibited sexual orientation employment discrimination, prior to the Court’s ruling, federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sex did not extend to claims of gender identity and sexual orientation. In the absence of a unifying federal law, those arguing they were discriminated against at work due to their sexual orientation or gender identity were met with mixed results.
The three cases at the heart of the decision involve a man fired from his job after joining a gay softball league; another fired after mentioning he was gay; and a third involving a transgender employee who was fired after telling her employer “she would be identifying as a women six years into her employment”.
In all three cases, the employers came clean, admitting they fired the workers for being gay or transgender, but were well within their rights as it did not violate Title VII. While The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the employer in the first case, the Second and Sixth Circuits, ruled differently in the other two. Settling the question once and for all, the highest court ruled that sexual orientation discrimination is indeed a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which protects employees from sex discrimination under federal law.
Now, “an employer that fires or otherwise discriminates against an employee merely for being gay or transgender defies the law,” said Justice Gorsuch in support of the decision. A dissenting Justice added, “it is appropriate to acknowledge the important victory achieved today by gay and lesbian Americans. Millions of gay and lesbian Americans have worked hard for many decades to achieve equal treatment in fact and in law. They have exhibited extraordinary vision, tenacity, and grit—battling often steep odds in the legislative and judicial arenas, not to mention in their daily lives. They have advanced powerful policy arguments and can take pride in today’s result.”
Protecting Iowa Employees’ Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Statewide
If you have been discriminated against on the job on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation or gender identity, or on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or other protected classes, contact the Iowa employment law Offices of Marc Humphrey for help at 515-331-3510.