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SCOTUS: gay and transgender employees are protected by Title VII

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a watershed ruling that federal law prohibits workplace discrimination against gay and transgender employees.

The 6-3 decision means that gay and transgender workers are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That landmark law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

Reuters points out that workplace discrimination against gay and transgender workers had been legal in the 28 states without laws specifically prohibiting it.

It is a source of pride in Wisconsin that we were the first state in the nation to ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. For 38 years, it has been against the law for businesses in our state to discriminate against homosexual employees in these matters:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Compensation
  • Promotion
  • Training
  • Scheduling
  • Career opportunities

Today's ruling was penned by Justice Neil Gorsuch, appointed by President Trump in 2017. The administration opposed LGBT rights in the case.

"Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear," Gorsuch wrote. "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."

He noted that it is likely that those who wrote and voted for the Civil Rights Act did not anticipate that one day it would extend rights to gay and transgender workers. He said that they probably didn't anticipate previous consequences of their work, including the outlawing of "discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees. But the limits of the drafters' imagination supply no reason to ignore the law's demands."

We at the Milwaukee employment law office of Alan C. Olson and Associates congratulate the LGBT community on a victory long overdue.

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