Supreme Court of the United States Determines that Employers Cannot Discriminate Against LGBT Employees; Does this Ruling Affect Your Wisconsin Business?

In a 6-to-3 ruling on Monday June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court determined that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and sex, also protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex. It is important to note that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act defines “employer” as having 15 or more employees.

Justice Gorsuch, writing the majority opinion, said, “An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions.” The opinion also states, “That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”

Gorsuch wrote that discriminating against an employee because they are gay or transgender is by definition discrimination on the basis of sex.

“If the employer intentionally relies in part on an individual employee’s sex when deciding to discharge the employee—put differently, if changing the employee’s sex would have yielded a different choice by the employer—a statutory violation has occurred.”

How does the Supreme Court’s ruling impact Wisconsin employers?

Wisconsin already has employee protections for sexual orientation and transgender status, so the Supreme Court ruling should not have a significant impact on Wisconsin employers per se. (See here.)

While the question before the Court was only related to whether employers can fire someone based on their LGBTQ status, the Court was clear that an individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to any employment decisions. This includes hiring, benefits, termination, and any other employment related decisions and offerings.

Are there any loopholes for Wisconsin businesses in regard to the Supreme Court Ruling?

It is important to note that this ruling does not pertain to small businesses with less than 15 employees. The small business exception was included in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Millions of Americans are employed by small businesses, so discrimination protections are not in place everywhere.

Also, the ruling does not provide other civil rights protections for LGBT individuals in situations such as housing, use of restrooms, entrance to a restaurant, and other kinds of civil rights. LGBT advocates will continue to seek protections in all areas of life.

Employment lawyers helping with discrimination and other legal matters

Murphy Desmond has experienced employment attorneys in offices in Madison, Janesville, Appleton, and Dodgeville, Wisconsin, to assist with all your employment legal needs. Call us at 608.257.7181.

Published June 22, 2020

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