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LGBT discrimination cases head to high court

For LGBT workers in California, workplace discrimination continues to be a major concern. The U.S. Supreme Court will be taking up a case to assess once more whether or not federal civil rights law provides nationwide protection against discrimination on the job on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The high court said that it will hear some cases alleging that the plaintiffs were fired due to their sexual orientation as well as the case of a funeral home worker who was fired after announcing she was transitioning to living as a woman.

Decisions are likely to come down by June 2020, while the presidential election campaign will be in full swing. The cases hinges on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also provides protection to LGBT people under its framework prohibiting sex discrimination. The law does not explicitly mention sexual orientation or gender identity, but several federal appeals courts have affirmed a reading of the law that situates protection for LGBT workers within the law's prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex. Courts in Chicago and New York applied the framework to protect lesbian and gay workers, while a Cincinnati court did the same for transgender people.

Under the Obama administration, the federal government supported this interpretation of the law. Under the Trump administration, the Department of Justice has changed course. Diverging from previous submissions by the DOJ under Obama, the department argues that Title VII is not intended and should not be interpreted to extend to gay, lesbian, or transgender workers.

The change in the federal approach has worried many LGBT workers, even as many states and municipalities provide their own frameworks to protect these employees from discrimination. LGBT workers facing job discrimination can consult with an employment law attorney about their options.

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