Dozens of companies including Google, Apple and Microsoft are all asking the U.S. Supreme Court to address whether a law banning sex discrimination in the workplace provides protections to gay employees. The companies are asking the Supreme Court to take up the case of Jameka Evans – a former security guard at a Georgia hospital, who says she was harassed and forced to quit her job because she is gay. Currently, there are 27 states that have not yet adopted their own laws, which is why these companies think that a federal law is so imperative. They are asking that the federal law clearly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
A federal appeals court in Atlanta dismissed Evans’ case stating that discrimination against gay employees is not unlawful under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Is it time that sexual orientation is included in the Civil Rights Act? Is America ready for that? Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. But sex, as it’s understood means your gender. In July of 2017, the Justice Department filed an amicus brief stating that Title VII doesn’t cover employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The ACLU would rather see this play out in the courts. After all, it’s pretty clear what kind of outcome we would see if the Attorney General or the White House were making this decision. The Department of Justice, under former President Barack Obama, had never gone all the way toward supporting sexual orientation being covered under Title VII in lawsuits. But they allowed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to make those arguments without incident. The EEOC is the federal agency that is charged with protecting workers against job discrimination. And lower federal courts have been split on this issue for years.
In April of this year, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled that the Civil Rights Act prohibits workplace discrimination against LGBT employees. The plaintiff, in that case, was able to successfully argue that a school had violated Title VII when it denied her a job.
The American Bar Association explains what measures have been taken historically to amend Title VII. Including attempting to add the phrase “affectional or sexual preference” in 1975. As we know, all attempts to date have been unsuccessful. There has been no bill passed that specifically prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Early court decisions also found that transgender people were not entitled to protection from employment discrimination. But, we are hoping this will change. And so are the tech giants.
I find it interesting that companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft are going to bat for their employees. We saw this recently when some tech giants were trying to help the Dreamers and people with other immigration issues. It makes me happy to see this happening in the world. I often focus on the hate that is so prominent in today’s society, it’s sometimes easy to miss the good news stories. This is a good news story to an extent. It’s good news that these companies are standing up for human rights, but the fact that they have to at all is disheartening.