Supreme Court Rules Title VII Prohibits Discrimination Based Upon Sexual Orientation and Transgender Status – Part II

On Monday I sent out an update that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that an employer who fires an employee for being gay or transgender violates Title VII. There are a few key aspects about this ruling that I want to point out.

  1. This is not new law. Unlike a new statute, this ruling is actually the Supreme Court telling us how Title VII should have been interpreted all along. And, many courts have been ruling that Title VII prohibits discrimination based upon sexual orientation and transgender status for years. However, the Fifth Circuit (covering Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas) has traditionally not construed Title VII in this manner. So, although this ruling is not technically “new law”, it will change the way the courts in the Fifth Circuit construe these types of cases in the future.
  1. This is effective immediately. When a statute is passed, it takes effect on a specific date in the future. Unlike a statute, the Supreme Court’s ruling is effective immediately.
Continue reading “Supreme Court Rules Title VII Prohibits Discrimination Based Upon Sexual Orientation and Transgender Status – Part II”

A Couple Action Items for HR in 2015

I. Should you add sexual orientation and transgender status to your harassment/discrimination policies?
As most HR professionals know, federal law does not facially include sexual orientation or trans-gender status as protected categories. And, while some states and cities have passed their own laws protecting these groups, leaving employers to comply with a patchwork of state and local laws  (Houston, Texas passed such an ordinance in 2014.), neither Louisiana nor Baton Rouge have done so. However, the United States Attorney General issued a memorandum in December 2014, making clear the federal government’s position that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be interpreted as covering transgender employees.

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U.S. Department of Justice Takes Position that Title VII Prohibits Gender Identity Discrimination

gender identityOn December 15, 2014, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder issued a Memorandum that it is the position of the Department of Justice (DOJ) that Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination includes discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status. This is an about-face from the DOJ’s stated position in 2006 that Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination did not include discrimination based on gender identity or transgender status.

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