Title VII protection for LGBT workers in doubt

On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2020 | workplace discrimination | 0 comments

Local ordinances in Austin and some other Texas cities prohibit private employers from discriminating against LGBT workers. Nevertheless, Texas is one of 28 states that have no state laws protecting the rights of LGBT people in the workforce.

There is also no federal law that explicitly prevents discrimination against LGBT workers. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has interpreted the Title VII prohibition against sex discrimination to include gender identity and sexual orientation for seven years.

That, unfortunately, could change. The Supreme Court will likely make decisions this year for two cases of alleged discrimination against LGBT workers. The justices heard cases last October dealing with a transgender woman in Michigan and two gay men in New York who lost their jobs based on gender identity in the former case and sexual orientation in the latter.

Cases in question

One of the cases concerns a transgender woman in Michigan who lost her job at a funeral home in 2013. The attorney representing the funeral home claims that the law as written does not apply to discrimination against LGBT workers and that applying Title VII to such cases is an overreach by the EEOC.

In 2014, one year before the Supreme Court decision that legalized marriage equality nationwide, an employee at a Catholic high school in North Carolina lost his job following a Facebook announcement of his engagement to a male fiancé. The diocese cited the school’s religious affiliation as justification for the firing.

Support from a Texas politician

A Republican and former speaker of the Texas House made headlines in November by calling for the Supreme Court to affirm the rights of LGBT workers in the two cases. He stated his belief that all Americans have the right to go about their daily lives without fear and should have the opportunity to work.

The 2015 Supreme Court case that allowed same-sex couples to marry did nothing to protect LGBT people against workplace discrimination. Workers in more than half of U.S. states are paying attention to see whether the justices will affirm their rights in their professional lives as well as their personal lives.