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Sterling Employment Law

Supreme Court to rule if Title VII extends to LGBTQ employees

The attitude toward sexual orientation and gender identity has changed. Members of the LGBTQ community - lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer - have challenged the discrimination they face. But federal laws still do not protect against LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace.

However, the Supreme Court will hear three cases that may change that. Two of the cases cover gay men who claim their firings were because of their sexual orientation. The third case is from a Michigan woman fired from her long-time job after telling her boss she was about to go through gender reassignment surgery. The results of these rulings may affect how the federal government views workplace discrimination.

Suing under sex discrimination

Two gay men bring the first two cases. In both cases, the men said that their employers fired them for falsified reasons because of their sexual orientations. Their lawsuits both claim that the firings are sex discrimination based on perceived gender stereotypes. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes discrimination based on sex illegal.

The third case involves a former man who had worked as a funeral director for six years. After she informed her boss that she planned to get gender reassignment surgery, her boss fired her. He claimed that since she would no longer dress like a man, she violated dress code policies. Her lawsuit also claims discrimination based on sex.

Ruling could open up definition of sex discrimination

Since Title VII doesn't mention anything about gender identity or sexual orientation, courts have differed on how they rule this type of discrimination. Some LGBTQ employees have successfully filed lawsuits based on sex discrimination. But many judges and lawmakers do not feel that LGBTQ discrimination is the same as sex discrimination.

If the Supreme Court decides that these cases are sex discrimination, it could change how future courts rule on discrimination lawsuits.

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