U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Whether Title VII Protects Gay and Transgender Employees
April 22, 2019
By: Jill E. Hall
The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take up a trio of cases involving a hot-button employment law issue for federal courts. The Court has been asked to decide whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination “based on . . . sex,” protects gay and transgender employees. On April 22, the Court granted petitions for certiorari, agreeing to hear the cases.
The cases involve rulings issued by the Second, Sixth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal. To date, the Second, Sixth and Seventh Circuits have held that Title VII’s protections extend to LGBT workers, a classification that is based on sex according to those courts. The Eleventh Circuit, however, has declined to extend the law’s protections against discrimination to LGBT workers. Of note, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission already interprets Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination as prohibiting any form of employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
The Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015. Some have theorized that a natural extension of that ruling would be protection for LGBT workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. To date, no federal law provides such protection. Should the Court ultimately rule that Title VII’s protections extend to LGBT workers, the landscape of employment law is sure to change with respect to discrimination and harassment claims, employee benefits issues and more. The Court’s eventual ruling also is likely to be an indication of how the newly shaped court will stand on progressive social issues.