Supreme Court Announces It Will Decide if the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Applies to Gay and Transgender Workers

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of the principal laws that employees can use to hold employers accountable for discrimination in the workplace. The law forbids discrimination in hiring, firing, or job opportunities based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Supreme Court has agreed, according to a report in the New York Times, to hear arguments in three cases that test whether the Act should be expanded to include discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status. The cases are the first set of cases to address this issue since Justice Kavanaugh replaced Justice Kennedy. Just Kennedy was a known champion of gay rights.

Many federal appeals courts have already ruled against the expansion of discrimination rights for gays, lesbians, and transgenders but two appellate courts in Chicago and New York have ruled in favor of the expansion. However, the court rules, it is important to note that states have their own Constitutions and anti-discrimination laws. Injured employees can file claims under state law for discrimination. Federal claims generally are heard before federal agencies and federal courts where there is normally a greater likelihood of a larger recovery.

The three cases

In a New York case, a skydiving instructor claimed that he was fired when a woman customer complained about being strapped too tightly to the instructor even though the instructor told the customer he was gay. The estate of the instructor is pursuing the case on behalf of the instructor who died. The Second Circuit ruled that “sexual orientation discrimination is motivated, at least in part, by sex and is thus a subset of sex discrimination.” The dissenting judge reasoned that the claim could not proceed until Congress specifically adds sexual orientation to the Civil Rights statute.

In a Georgia case, a gay worker for child welfare services was fired. The 11th Circuit ruled homosexuality was not protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In a Michigan case involving a transgender woman fired from a Michigan funeral home after she said she would be wearing women’s clothes to work. Even though her coworkers said she was a capable and compassionate person and she had worked at the funeral home for six years, she was fired when her employer learned she would be dressing as a woman and not a man. The 6th Circuit ruled for the transgender worker, ruling that Title VII did apply to her status.

“It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex,” the court said, adding, “Discrimination ‘because of sex’ inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.”

The 6th Circuit also reasoned that the firing of the funeral worker was not justified because of prior court cases which held that employers can’t discriminate based on nonconformance with gender stereotypes.

At the Law Offices of Stephen Danz & Associates, we fight for all employees regardless of their sexual orientation and other identity characteristics. We assert all federal and state laws on their behalf. Employers who wrongfully discriminate should be held accountable for the income and benefits that an employee loses. In some cases, employers can also be ordered to pay punitive damages and legal fees. If you’ve been fired for no good reason, call us at (877)789-9707 to schedule an appointment. Se Habla Espanol.