Protection for LGBTQ Employees – Wasn’t this Already the Law?

On June 15th, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ employees were protected from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Weren’t LGBTQ employees already protected?”  The answer depends on where you live.  In Michigan for example, there is no state statute providing these protections.  Many local municipalities including Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and Portage, passed local ordinances banning LGBTQ discrimination.  In the recent past, employers located in an area not covered by a local ordinance could still fire or refuse to hire an employee based on LGBTQ status, whether real or perceived.

Surprised?  This is where it gets even more confusing.  Title VII protects employees from discrimination based on their race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.  It was only recently that the EEOC started interpreting the definition of “sex” under Title VII to include LGBTQ status.  Depending on your location and the interpretation of local courts, the EEOC would pursue some cases of LGBTQ discrimination, but not all.

This ruling determined that sex, as a protected category, directly applies to issues of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. By protecting employees from discrimination based on sex, the intent of Title VII includes protections for employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.   This new standard will apply consistently across the U.S.

For most employers this will not be a significant change, in fact, it has been years since we’ve written a handbook that did not include LGBTQ protections, but you might want to check yours just in case.

Questions?  Give us a call, we’re always happy to help!

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