June is Pride Month, so every Monday this month FindLaw will be looking at the unique legal issues faced by LGBT members of our community -- what the laws are currently, and what they may be in the near future. We'll be rounding up our coverage of family law, services and accommodation discrimination, and looking at upcoming legislation and court decisions. This week? It's employment law.
The Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for employers "to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." That list notably doesn't specifically include sexual orientation, preference, or gender identity, but some courts have read the prohibition on sex discrimination to include protections for gay, transgender, and non-binary workers. So, your employment rights may depend on where you work -- here's a look.
Some states have passed specific anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBT employees. Sadly, some other states have passed laws limiting the authority of cities located within their borders to enact such legislation. And without clear federal action on the matter, the level of discrimination protection may vary depending on exactly where your workplace is located.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has tried to enforce discrimination protections for LGBT employees, and asserted that the Civil Rights Act's prohibition on sex-based discrimination also covers anti-LGBT bias. Both the Seventh Circuit Court (which covers Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin) and the Second Circuit Court (which covers Connecticut, New York, and Vermont) agreed. That means gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees in those states cannot be discriminated against in hiring, promotion, pay, firing, or any other employment context. Unfortunately, not all courts were convinced, including the Eleventh Circuit Court (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida).
That disagreement among the federal circuit courts made the issue ripe for the Supreme Court to decide. That decision will set federal employment law when it comes to protecting LGBT employees, and is expected to be handed down soon.
If you faced discrimination at work and have questions about your legal rights, contact a local employment attorney for help.