On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court took the monumental step of ruling that the Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex. This protection means that an employee cannot be terminated because of their LGBTQ status.
Prior to this ruling, various states had conflicting anti-discrimination policies, and unfortunately, some of these policies did not protect LGBTQ individuals. As a result, LGBTQ individuals could lose their jobs, their health insurance, their homes, and so much more solely because of their LGBTQ status. While they frequently argued that their LGBTQ status could be encompassed by the prohibitions on sex discrimination under Title VII, it was not until the 2020 ruling that the Supreme Court finally accepted and approved of this argument.
Curtailing Illegal Discrimination and Retaliation
Discrimination takes a variety of forms, and this ruling will help LGBTQ individuals combat these illegal practices. For example, discriminatory intent can influence an employer’s decision to hire, rescind an employment offer, or terminate an employee. Although the 2020 ruling noted caveats regarding discrimination based on LGBTQ status, it overall provided a strong basis for LGBTQ individuals to combat discrimination.
The 2020 ruling also helps in the employment law context by limiting an employer’s ability to retaliate against an employee because of an individual’s LGBTQ status. Retaliation can take a variety of forms. For example, retaliation occurs when, after an employer learns of an individual’s LGBTQ status, the employer assigns the LGBTQ employee an inordinate amount of work as punishment for coming out as LGBTQ. Another example of retaliation can occur if an LGBTQ employee, after years of receiving favorable performance reviews, receives a poor performance review after disclosing their LGBTQ status. Retaliation is extremely nuanced and can take a variety of forms, but the 2020 ruling will help LGBTQ individuals who believe their employers have retaliated against them because of their LGBTQ status.
Preventing LGBTQ Discrimination Outside of the Workplace
This ruling will extend beyond employment law and be used to protect individuals in a variety of other avenues such as housing, education, businesses, and other services. In the past, LGBTQ individuals have faced innumerable challenges in day-to-day life that non-LGBTQ individuals could not imagine. Aspects of life such as owning a home or opening a business have been denied to LGBTQ individuals solely because of their LGBTQ status. While the 2020 ruling by no means eradicates all discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, it takes a powerful step to ensuring that an individual’s LGBTQ status cannot be used against them to deny them life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness.
While claims of discrimination based on LGBTQ status are never easy to litigate, the 2020 ruling has given LGBTQ individuals a new tool to argue against discrimination and uphold equality. If you believe you were wrongfully terminated because of your LGBTQ status, it is important you speak with an experienced employment attorney. The team here at Schaefer Halleen would be happy to speak with you and determine how we might be able to help.