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What Today's Landmark Supreme Court Ruling On LGBTQ Workers Means

Cassidy Chansirik
Cassidy Chansirik Student at U.C. Berkeley
Hi! I'm Cassidy, a rising junior majoring in Legal Studies at U.C. Berkeley who is passionate about the law, helping others, and all things coffee!
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    Jasmin Sessler from Pixabay
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Today, the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling that protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

 

It occurred to us that many people may have seen this news today, but not understand what it means.

 

After all, the American public largely (73%) supported such laws way back in 2011. Many people may have wrongly assumed such rules were already securely in place nine years later. 

 

Here’s the lowdown on what today’s news means. 

 

What is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees during all stages of employment because of their “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 

 

Today, in the majority opinion, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch wrote, “It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”

 

But weren’t LGBTQ workers already protected in the workplace?

 

Prior to today, discrimination against LGBTQ workers was not prohibited under federal law. 

 

In fact, 27 states did not have any laws to protect workers from being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.  

 

But now, the Supreme Court has said all states must protect gay, lesbian and transgender employees from being disciplined, fired or turned down for a job based on their sexual orientation.

 

According to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, the Supreme Court decision will help protect nearly 4 million LGBTQ workers in those 27 states.

 

What does this Supreme Court decision mean for LGBTQ workers? 

 

Because of this Supreme Court decision, employers across the United States are now prohibited from doing the following: 

  • Failing to hire an individual because they identify as LGBTQ
  • Refusing to hire an individual because they identify as LGBTQ
  • Firing an individual because they identify as LGBTQ
  • Discriminating against an individual because they identify as LGBTQ
 

So everything is perfect, right? 

 

Not quite yet. It is unclear how this decision extends to businesses with fewer than 15 employees. 

 

This is because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in the workplace for businesses with 15 or more employees. 

 

So, if a state does not have small business protections for LGBTQ workers, it is still legal for a small business employer to discriminate against them.


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