Can you believe that in 2019, it's up for debate whether an employer can legally fire an employee based on their gender identity or sexual orientation? That if an employee comes out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, and the employer does not want LGBTQ people working for them, they can be terminated and lose their job? This is a very real scenario for millions of LGBTQ Americans all across the country, putting them in positions where they are unable to provide for themselves and their families.
If an employee is fired based on who they love or how they identify, it's currently unclear whether or not they have any legal protections at the federal level. The Supreme Court will hear three cases on October 8th, 2019 to determine whether or not LGBTQ people are included under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which protects against discrimination employment on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. A decision is expected before June of 2020.
On April 22, 2019, The Supreme Court agreed to hear three cases testing the reach of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act in protecting LGBTQ Americans from discrimination in employment. The cases that will be heard are Altitude Express v. Zarda, Bostock v. Clay County, Georgia, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC and Aimee Stephens. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on all three cases on October 8, 2019. A decision is expected by June 2020.
R.G. & G.R. HARRIS FUNERAL HOMES v. EEOC and AIMEE STEPHENS
Aimee Stephens worked as a funeral director at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. When she informed the funeral home’s owner that she is transgender and planned to come to work as the woman she is, the business owner fired her, saying it would be "unacceptable" for her to appear and behave as a woman. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March 2018 that when the funeral home fired her for being transgender, it violated Title VII -- the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment. Stephens was the same capable employee before and after her transition, but she was fired because she took steps to be the woman she is.
ALTITUDE EXPRESS INC. v. ZARDA
Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, was fired from his job for being gay. A federal trial court rejected his discrimination claim, saying that the Civil Rights Act does not protect him from losing his job for being a gay man. Tragically, in October 2014, Zarda died unexpectedly, but the case continues on behalf of his family. In February 2018, the full Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of discrimination based on sex that is prohibited under Title VII. The court recognized that when a lesbian, gay, or bisexual person is treated differently because of discomfort or disapproval that they are attracted to people of the same sex, that’s discrimination based on sex.
BOSTOCK v. CLAYTON COUNTY
Gerald Lynn Bostock was fired from his job as a county child welfare services coordinator when his employer learned he is gay. In May 2018, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider an outdated 1979 decision wrongly excluding sexual orientation discrimination from coverage under Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination, and denied his appeal.
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