Supreme Court Decision Ensures LGBT Rights in the Workplace

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David Rice

LGBT Supreme Court

Despite the increasingly widespread acceptance of lesbian, gay, bi and transsexual (LGBT) persons in modern society, formal laws that protected them from workplace discrimination the way it does along the lines of someone’s gender, race or religion have been lacking national consistency. Until now.

On Monday, the Supreme Court released a surprising ruling, by a vote of 6-3, that sees the principles which formed the 1964 Civil Rights Act extend to the LGBT community. Justice Neil Gorsuch, an appointee of President Trump who was widely expected to fall in line with the President’s efforts to roll back protections for LGBTQ communities, authored a majority opinion that examined the issue on “textualist” grounds, or a literal approach to what is written in policy. In this case, that’s the workplace discrimination ban known as Title VII.

"An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids,” Gorsuch wrote.

READ: The Importance of Addressing Social Issues in the Workplace

Some on the dissenting side argued that the adoption of Title VII in the Civil Rights Act was done on the basis of what it understood sex to mean at that time, which has been accepted and is the reason why no later Congress adopted further measures or amended the policy to speak to the LGBTQ community.

Gorsuch, in no uncertain terms, expressed his belief that the intention of the Civil Rights Act and Title VII are clear and have to be applied to LGBTQ workers.

"There is simply no escaping the role intent plays here: Just as sex is necessarily a but-for cause when an employer discriminates against homosexual or transgender employees, an employer who discriminates on these grounds inescapably intends to rely on sex in its decisionmaking.”

This ruling is a major victory for diversity advocates, the 1 million transgender workers and 7.1 million lesbian, gay or bisexual workers around the country. It comes just days after the Trump administration cut Obama-era regulations that prohibited discrimination against transgender patients in healthcare.

As workplaces have become more accepting of identity and lifestyle choices, the opportunities for LGBTQ workers has expanded and steps toward equality for those individuals have been taken. It’s something that is vital to organizational and cultural success, according to a study published in HR Science Forum.

The research revealed that inclusive practices around LGBTQ employees correlates with employee productivity, profitability and improve business performance.

"Diversity is our national special sauce which fosters innovation," said Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro in an interview with Multichannel News. "Today's historic Supreme Court ruling protecting LGBTQ+ people is a landmark victory for freedom and diversity, which will continue to propel our country's entrepreneurial spirit forward. Our nation was created to be, and continues to serve as, a beacon for freedom, liberty and equal opportunity, and today's ruling ensures that we continue to be a country where anyone can invent, create and do business. This decision upholds these values and helps ensure all Americans can be their best selves."

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