California readers know that it is illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ employees in the workplace. However, some employers attempt to use religion as an excuse to do so. Two recent federal lawsuits could put an end to that.

In a case that has yet to be decided, Lambda Legal filed an appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of a man who was denied a health care sales job due to his sexual orientation. Court documents state that the man was offered a sales position at Missouri’s Midwest Geriatric Management, but the employment offer was taken back when the owners of the company learned he is gay. The owners claim that his sexual orientation is not compatible with their religious beliefs.

The second case has been decided, and the ruling is historic. On March 7, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of a woman who was fired from her job after telling her boss she was transgender and transitioning. The employer, the owner of a Detroit-area funeral home, claimed that having a transgender employee went against his sincere religious beliefs. A lower court ruled in his favor, but the appeals court found that religion does not exempt employers from complying with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from on-the-job discrimination. It is the first court to make such a ruling on religious beliefs and workplace discrimination.

State and federal laws protect California employees from harassment and workplace discrimination. Anyone who suffers on-the-job discrimination based on sexual orientation may wish to pursue a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which might lead to a settlement for damages. Employees may learn more about their legal options by consulting with an attorney.

Source: NBC, “Religion can’t be used to justify workplace discrimination, court rules,” Julie Moreau, March 8, 2018