Supreme Court Rules Civil Rights Law Protects Gay and Transgender Workers

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court said that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual discrimination, applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Until Monday, when the decision was made, it was legal in more than half of the states to fire workers for being gay, bisexual, or transgender. Supporters of the L.G.B.T. rights were ecstatic of the ruling, which was stated that is long overdue.

Justice Gorsuch, who was Trump’s first appointment to the court was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. They ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to sexual orientation and gender identity.

With the Supreme Court ruling, it gives plaintiffs control, but both large and small companies are expected to face legal cases over their policies. When one Walmart employee filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2014 saying the company was discriminating against her by denying health insurance benefits to her same-sex spouse, a long-drawn-out legal battle began. In December 2016, the company announced they had agreed to a settlement compensating the employee and others affected by the same denial of spousal benefits. If the employee had brought up the case after the Supreme Court’s decision, it would have been resolved more quickly one lawyer states.

When the employee’s case was litigated, employers could argue that an employee did not have a legal claim to bring. Now with the Supreme Court’s decision, it should be clear that employees should not even have to bring a lawsuit to enforce their rights.

Many companies had started adopting rules stating that neither sexual orientation or gender identity would affect their hiring, firing, or promotion decisions. Although this was very important, without a nationwide policy the changes were largely ad hoc and conditional.

Lastly, before the Supreme Court ruling, over 200 companies came forward including: Google, Facebook, Hilton, Nike, and the Walt Disney Company where they signed a brief in support of the plaintiffs – making it the largest instance of employer support for employee plaintiffs in Supreme Court litigation.