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Conservative Supreme Court Protects LGBTQ Rights In The Workplace

On Behalf of | May 19, 2021 | Employment Law

Dave Scher
Partner

In a massive win for employees all over the country, the Supreme Court has ruled that LGBTQ rights, or rights based on sexual orientation, are protected under Title VII, the statute that provides civil rights protections for employees in the workplace.

You can read the entire opinion by clicking here.

Courts have debated this issue for years, and recently President Trump’s administration has acted with extreme hostility towards LGBTQ rights.   Surprisingly, Justice Gorsuch, appointed by President Trump, not only voted in favor of LGBTQ protection but even wrote the opinion!

Chief Justice John Roberts joined, making the six-Justice majority a mix of conservative and liberal perspectives.  True to promise, both Justice Gorsuch and Chief Justice Roberts put aside their personal morality, and instead focused on the language of the statute.  Indeed, Justice Gorsuch expressly admonishes against such folly:

The employers turn to naked policy appeals, suggesting that the Court proceed without the law’s guidance to do what it thinks best. That is an invitation that no court should ever take up.

Justice Neil Gorsuch

The Court based its decision on the interpretation of the word “sex.”  According to the Court, an employer discriminating against an employee because he is gay, for example, by definition, is discrimination based on “sex,” and, therefore, Title VII certainly protects that employee.

Some more liberal-leaning individuals might be concerned that sexual orientation is conflated with gender identity. But at least the Court is recognizing sexual orientation protection in the first place.  From now on, Title VII provides nationwide protection in the workplace against sexual-orientation discrimination.

The Supreme Court’s decision will have ramifications far and wide. Many states do not have LGBTQ protections or even actively oppose them. Just like in the era of desegregation, it will take time for states to comply (and many will have to be forced into compliance via litigation).

Employees working in any company with more than fifteen employees nationwide should now enjoy protection based on their sexual orientation, for the first time in US history.

If you believe that you are a victim of employment discrimination or retaliation, do not hesitate to contact us.

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