The United States Supreme Court handed down a landmark ruling that gives LGBTQ employees the right to be free from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
For years, a patchwork of state or local laws have offered protection for LGBTQ employees in some — but definitely not all — areas. This ruling extends those protections all over the nation. The Court’s 6-3 opinion affirmed the text that was already being used in Title VII, the federal statute that generally prohibits discrimination on a variety of protected categories.
How this changes the workplace
Title VII has long barred workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, but not everyone agreed with what that meant. Opponents of the measure argued that discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity wasn’t legally barred because that was different than discriminating against someone purely on their assigned gender at birth.
In its decision, the Supreme Court basically held that you cannot distinguish between discrimination based on sex and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Firing a transgender woman for the way that she presents herself penalizes her for being biologically male, not dressing in a feminine manner or the way she wears her hair. Discriminating against a woman who marries another woman penalizes her for being female and being attracted to women, not just for being in a same-sex marriage.
While this battle may be won, the ongoing war in some workplaces is unlikely to be over. Many LGBTQ people will still probably face overt or covert discrimination by their employers. If that happens to you, find out what can be done to protect your rights and ensure workplace rights for others.