In early June 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled to expand Title VII protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The new federal law forbids employers from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or transgender status.
The ruling marks a major victory for the LGBTQ community. What does it mean for business owners?
Implications for business owners
The Supreme Court voted 6-3 in favor of the interpretation. The vote upheld rulings from a lower court and provided federal backing to laws in 21 different states prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. The surprising majority came from an increasingly conservative court, written by administration appointee Judge Neil Gorsuch.
The Supreme Court issued a similar ruling in 2015 when the court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage. LGBTQ advocacy groups hail the 2020 decision as a more significant ruling since nearly every person needs a job.
The court conceded that the original authors of the 1964 law did not have gay or transgender individuals in mind when they wrote it. Still, Gorsuch argues that “…the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands.” The court clarified that when an employer fires a male employee for dating men but does not fire a female employee for doing the same, it violates inherent rights protected by U.S. law.
Many gay rights advocates call the ruling a victory for the likes of Donald Zarda, who lost his job as a skydiving instructor when his employer discovered he was gay. Zarda did not live to see the ruling, dying unexpectedly in 2014.
For California business owners, the new ruling changes very little. In 1959, California lawmakers passed the Fair Employment and Housing Act, which banned unlawful discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment and housing.
Consult an attorney for more information
Business owners with questions about discrimination in their workplaces can find answers with a local lawyer familiar with employment law. An attorney can assess any outstanding claims made by employees and offer advice for creating safe workspaces.