US Supreme Court Employment Discrimination Case Could Make History
In October, the US Supreme Court will hear three cases that will be instrumental in deciding whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In the transgender case, the employer on the other side of the case – who fired the plaintiff from her job as a funeral director after she came out at work – has alleged that a ruling for the plaintiffs will result in sex-specific policies to be prohibited, including those in restrooms.
The EEOC, Title VII, and the State of Florida
To date, more than half of all states, including Florida, do not prohibit employment discrimination due to gender identity or sexual orientation.The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) changed its interpretation of civil rights law to include discrimination against LGBT people, however, Title VII does not specify whether its prohibition against discrimination based on sex also protects against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, and the current administration has sided with some employers in arguing that civil rights law does not protect LGBT individuals. Title VII only specifies that it protects employees “because of sex.”
While the trial judge ruled against the plaintiff based on transgender issues, the federal appeals court found that discriminating on the basis of transgender status constitutes sex discrimination. The appeals court also found that the plaintiff was fired based on sex stereotypes and her appearance rather than the employer’s dress code. Interestingly, a number of other concerning and potentially discriminatory issues based on sex were occurring with this employer, including having a sex-specific dress code that required women to wear a skirt suit or dress even though this is not industry standard because the employer felt that “a “male should look like a man, and a woman should look like a woman.” While the employer reportedly purchased suits for its male employees, only after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued did the employer offer women a much smaller stipend toward the cost of their clothing. The official reason that the employer gave in this case for terminating the employee was because “he was no longer going to represent himself as a man” and the employer objected to the employee’s use of a female name because it made the employer “uncomfortable” due to the employee technically being a man.
Contact Our Florida Employment Law Attorneys
The questions that this case poses to the Court not only involve the issue of whether Title VII’s protection of employees “because of sex” includes gender identity and sexual orientation, but whether employers can enforce sex-specific policies – such as dress codes – based on an employer’s perception of an employee’s sex.
If you or a loved one has been discriminated against, contact our Jacksonville labor & employment lawyers at the office of Douglas & Carter, Attorneys at Law today to find out how we can help.