Over 200 companies in the U.S. and across the globe are leading a new push for the expansion of LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace. These companies －the most to ever sign a business brief in an LGTBQ+ non-discrimination case － submitted a “friend of the court” brief to the U.S Supreme Court. The brief seeks to include sexual orientation and gender identity in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which currently “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.”
Brian Turoff, litigator and head of Manatt’s New York employment and labor practice, explained the primary argument supporting the brief. When companies discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation, in turn, they’re discriminating against them on the basis of sex, per the way that existing legislation construes the word “sex.”
“For example, if you’re firing a man because he loves or has sex with another man, but you of course wouldn’t fire a woman because she loves or has sex with another man, then by definition you are treating those two people differently on the basis of their sex,” he said.
The brief also draws attention to three cases dealing with LGBTQ+ workplace discrimination being heard by the Supreme Court on Oct. 8. In two of the three cases, lower courts have sided with the employees, which conflicted with an 11th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of one of the employers, triggering a Supreme Court review.
Many high-profile organizations, representing over seven million employees, have signed the brief, including AirBnB, Amazon, Nike, Bank of America, Pfizer and Starbucks.
For some companies, signing on to this brief is seen as a step forward in long-term goals of fostering more equitable and inclusive workplace environments.
Cisco, one of the signers of the brief, said that they are “committed to driving long-term solutions that promote fair and equal policies, practices, and laws to help break down barriers,” in a statement. “We will continue to have a critical voice that is focused on protecting and advocating for more equitable rights for gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and gender-expansive people inside and outside the workplace.”
Moving forward, the case itself will be heard by the Supreme Court sometime after October, when the court commences. The announcement of any sort of decision could take months more, possibly into spring, Turoff said.
“A ruling in favor of the brief could not only impact federal anti-discrimination laws, but will change the way companies and human resources structure policies and training,” Turoff said. “Where you will of course see a much different impact are the places that have been resistant to passing these kind of laws. It changes this from an issue that’s been addressed in pockets to something that’s being addressed across the board, nationally.”