Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights File Amicus Brief In SCOTUS LGBTQ Workplace Discrimination Cases

A coalition of 57 civil rights and social justice organizations, led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, filed an amicus brief in support of the employees in three Supreme Court cases: R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission & Aimee Stephens, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, and Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda. The brief urges the Court to find that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination constitutes discrimination “because of … sex” and notes that recognition of this reality is essential to safeguarding the job security and economic stability of millions of LGBTQ people in American, especially those most often subjected to employment discrimination: LGBTQ people of color. 
 
“Outlawing job discrimination based on LGBTQ status is fully consistent with Title VII’s long history of anti-discrimination achievements, as well as the statutory text that has made those successes possible” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “If Title VII does not bar LGBTQ discrimination, that will leave many LGBTQ people of color vulnerable to workplace discrimination—an outcome contrary to Congress’ paramount goal of ensuring equal access to employment opportunities for minorities.”


It also follows directly from Title VII’s protections against other forms of prohibited discrimination—protections that depend on the same legal rules that the LGBTQ employees rely on in these cases. The diversity and vitality of American workplaces, and in turn the American economy, are dependent upon Title VII’s continued application to provide robust protections against discrimination.

These cases are on appeal from the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuits. Each case presents the Court with the question of whether sexual orientation and gender identity are protected under Title VII. 


In Zarda, a skydiving instructor was terminated by his employer because of his sexual orientation. Similarly, in Bostock, a county child welfare services coordinator was terminated because of his sexual orientation, despite the fact that he had previously received numerous accolades for his work performance. In Stephens, a funeral director was terminated after informing her employer that she is transgender.


The amicus brief highlights the critical role that Title VII’s prohibition against employment discrimination has played in advancing civil rights, and argues that outlawing job discrimination based on LGBTQ status is fully consistent with Title VII’s statutory text and its long history of rooting out workplace inequality. The brief notes that interpreting Title VII to cover LGBTQ discrimination is especially important for people living at the intersection of LGBTQ and racial minority identities because racial bias is often compounded by other forms of discrimination.

“Everyone deserves the right to work free from harassment and discrimination. The Lawyers’ Committee will continue to fight to ensure that LGBTQ employees, especially those of color, are protected from discrimination in the workplace,” said Kristen Clarke, President & Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. 


Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP served as counsel for amici curiae.


A link to the brief can be found here.

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