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Supreme Court may rule on LGBT workplace discrimination

The Supreme Court may rule on several cases that could affect some Long Island employees. The three cases deal with whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which covers employment discrimination on the basis of sex, extends to protection from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.

The Second and Seventh Circuits have argued that Title VII protects against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Eleventh Circuit ruled that it did not. The Sixth Circuit is the first court to find that it also protects against transgender discrimination. However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice are at odds with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding the interpretation of Title VII.

A memo from the HHS that became public in October said that sex should be defined based on the biological traits identified before or at birth. It also said that other federal agencies should follow suit. However, the acting chair of the EEOC said it intended to continue to treat cases as though that protection existed. Almost 200 companies signed a statement asking that protection of transgender workers be upheld. Although interpretation is still pending, employers should err on the side of avoiding discrimination.

Employees who believe they are facing gender discrimination at work might want to consult an attorney. Gender-based workplace harassment and discrimination can sometimes be subtle, and an attorney may be able to offer assistance in how to document incidents as well as the steps to take next. For example, many workplaces have procedures in place for reporting discrimination, and the person may want to follow up in that way first. A claim may be filed if the workplace response is inadequate.

Source: National Law Review, "Title VII and LGBT Rights: The Current Landscape," Melissa Legault, 11/20/2018

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