LGBT workers in California and across the country could be seriously affected by the outcome of three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. On Oct. 8, the high court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the cases, which concern whether workplace discrimination against LGBT employees is prohibited under federal civil rights laws. In a striking move from the business community, over 200 large corporations filed a legal brief urging the court to rule that LGBT workers are protected under existing law prohibiting sex discrimination.
The brief, being filed by five LGBT rights organizations, is signed by major corporations including Amazon, American Airlines, Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft, Nike and Walt Disney as well as two baseball teams, the San Francisco Giants and the Tampa Bay Rays. The companies say that a uniform rule against workplace discrimination best helps to ensure that their workers face equal circumstances and protections in all 50 states. While some states explicitly include gender identity and sexual orientation in their anti-discrimination laws, others do not. If there is no clear federal standard, workers in those states face a serious gap in protections.
The cases coming before the Supreme Court follow rulings by federal appeals courts in Chicago, New York and Cincinnati that federal laws against workplace discrimination protect gay, lesbian and transgender people. However, concerns have been raised about the outcome of these cases before the high court. The current Justice Department has reversed the position of the previous administration, and the court is more conservative than in the past.
Despite public support for LGBT communities by many corporations, many workers continue to suffer discrimination on the job on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Employees dealing with workplace discrimination may consult with an employment law attorney about their options to take action and seek justice.