Attorney General Ellison files Supreme Court brief to protect LGBTQ+ employees from workplace discrimination
Joins 21 other AGs in brief on three cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity that Court will hear together in October
July 10, 2019 (SAINT PAUL) — On the heels of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising that began the modern LGBT rights movement, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has joined 21 other attorneys general in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court that argues that federal anti-discrimination laws protect LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace. The coalition filed the brief in three cases pending before the Court that involve workers being fired based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The brief is being filed in the Supreme Court cases of Altitude Express v. Zarda; Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia; and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, which are being considered together by the Court and will be argued in October. In their brief, the coalition argues that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination against transgender people and on the basis of sexual orientation. A variety of Supreme Court precedents, some dating back 40 years, also support this argument.
“Living free from discrimination is fundamental to living with dignity and respect. No American should be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but too many LGBTQ Americans face discrimination in the workplace. All Americans deserve what Minnesota has shown: fairer, safer workplaces for LGBTQ folks make for better working conditions for everyone,” Attorney General Ellison said.
Two of the cases, Altitude Express v. Zarda and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, involve employees who were terminated from their jobs after their employers learned they were gay. The third case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, involves a transgender woman who was fired by the funeral home where she worked when she asked her employer for permission to dress in accordance with her gender identity.
Attorney General Ellison and the attorneys general argue that the prohibition on discrimination based on sex in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 encompasses discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation; prohibits employment discrimination against transgender people or on the basis of sexual orientation; and prohibits discrimination against transgender people based on sex stereotyping or their gender identity.
Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity increases the already high rates of prejudice LGBTQ+ people experience at work. It also contributes to increased harassment of LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace, which ranges from denial of jobs and promotions to physical and sexual assault.
In the brief, Attorney General Ellison and the coalition also argue that discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees impedes states’ ability to promote equality and protect residents’ dignity, economic security, and mental health. Furthermore, they argue that discrimination against LGBTQ+ workers has an economic impact on states because when LGBTQ+ residents are denied the ability to support themselves, many are forced to rely on public assistance programs. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ workers also decreases business productivity and increases health costs, which inhibits states’ economic growth.
Joining Attorney General Ellison in filing the brief, which was led by Illinois Attorney General Raoul and New York Attorney General Letitia James, are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.