In a landmark ruling on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that gay and transgender workers are protected from workplace discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The decision hinged on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and sex. At issue for the nine justices was whether gay and transgender workers fall under the protections against sex-based discriminated.
“We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law,” Gorsuch wrote.
In a 6 to 3 decision written by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, the conservative judge noted that sex “plays a necessary and undisguisable role” when employers fire someone for being homosexual or transgender, even if that wasn’t why lawmakers included “sex” in the law at the time.
The majority opinion was also supported by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
The court considered two cases about gay rights – Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga. and Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda – and one case concerning transgender rights: R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
All three individuals were fired because of their sexual orientation.
For LGBT workers in Washington, the SCOTUS ruling adds an important federal layer of protection to existing state and local laws supporting the community.
Washington state law already treats sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in the workplace.
Since 2006, LGBT workers in the state’s public and private sectors have enjoyed protections under RCW 49.60, which bans discrimination “on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodation, credit, and insurance.”
In addition to state law, Seattle, King County, Tacoma, Olympia and Burien also prohibit LGBT discrimination in housing and employment, according to the ACLU of Washington.
If you are the victim of workplace discrimination based on your sexual orientation or gender identity, or have a workers’ comp, wrongful termination, L&I, or other employment law claim, contact Emery Reddy. You won’t get better advice.