We recently reported that the Supreme Court will hear two cases in its fall term concerning whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers LGBTQ discrimination (here). Now, more than 200 major corporations have signed onto a friend of the court brief that has been submitted to the court in support of LGBTQ protections in the workplace. While a ruling is not anticipated until the end of 2019, LGBTQ workers in New York and New Jersey are currently protected by local and state laws.
Should LGBTQ People be Protected from Discrimination?
The 206 corporate signatories, organized by a consortium of LGBTQ advocacy groups, represent over 7 million employees across multiple industries. The brief argues that LGBTQ people are protected under Title VII and that legal prohibitions against anti-LGBTQ would allow businesses to attract and retain qualified workers and improve business efficiency. At the same time, these businesses believe that protecting the LGBTQ community is the right thing to do.
While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and certain federal appellate courts have held that discrimination against LGBTQ people violates prohibitions on sex discrimination contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it is uncertain whether the Supreme Court will affirm that interpretation. The high court is slated to hear arguments on October 8th in the case of Altitude Express v. Zarda to determine discrimination against openly gay workers is prohibited under Title VII. The second case involves a transgender woman who was fired after she informed her employer of her intent to transition.
Legal LGBTQ Protections for People in New York and New Jersey
LGBTQ workers in New York and New Jersey are currently protected against employment discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity under local and state laws, and employers may be held strictly liable for supervisor discrimination or harassment against LGBTQ workers.
Employers are also required to respond to complaints of coworker harassment of LGBTQ employees and can be held liable for creating a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is one in which comments or conduct based on sexual orientation or gender identity interfere with an LGBTQ worker’s ability to perform his or her job or that creates a work environment that a reasonable person would find hostile, intimidating or offensive. Offensive conduct can come in many forms, including inappropriate jokes, insults, threats and assaults.
Finally, local and state laws also protect LGBTQ workers against retaliation: an employer cannot take an adverse employment action — hiring, firing, demotion, changing assignments or employment benefits — against an LGBTQ employee who complains about discrimination or harassment. If you believe you have been subjected to discrimination or harassment based on your sexual orientation or gender identity, the employment law attorneys at Lipsky Lowe LLP are here to protect your rights.