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USSC to Hear Trio of LGBTQ Cases

The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear three cases that address whether Title VII’s protections against sex discrimination extend to discrimination on the basis of an employee’s sexual orientation and gender identity. Lower courts have struggled with the question of whether “discrimination on the basis of sex” could include protections for LGBTQ workers, resulting in a split among the federal courts of appeal. The Supreme Court will now have the opportunity to resolve the question once and for all. Two of the cases involve gay employees who both claim that they were fired because of their sexual orientation. In one case, Zarda v. Altitude Express, the Scond Circuit Court of Appeals (covering northeastern states) ruled that Title VII extended to sexual orientation discrimination.  In the other case, Bostock v. Clayton County, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (covering southern states) ruled that Title VII did not protect employees from sexual orientation discrimination. The third case the Supreme Court will hear involves a transgender employee. In R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. EEOC, a funeral home owner terminated an employee because of her transgender status. The business owner relied on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to argue that his personal religious beliefs supported his termination decision and RFRA provides a defense for employers with sincerely held religious beliefs. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (covering midwestern states, but not Kansas), ruled against the business owner and found that Title VII protects transgender employees and RFRA did not provide a defense for the owner. These questions are now in the hands of the Supreme Court. Whatever the outcome, employers will hopefully have clarity on this hot-button HR issue soon. 


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Don Berner, the Labor Law, OSHA, & Immigration Law Guy
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Boyd Byers, the General Employment Law Guy
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Jason Lacey, the Employee Benefits Guy
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