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Supreme Court to Decide Whether Federal Civil Rights Laws Protect LGBT Employees

Posted Monday, April 22, 2019 by Pivotal Law Group

Federal law generally prohibits workplace discrimination based on gender. An open question has been whether discrimination "because of gender" includes discrimination against LGBT employees. Some courts have said yes, reasoning that at least some discrimination against gay or transgender employees boils down to discrimination on the basis of failing to conform to perceived traditional gender roles; other courts have gone the other way.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it is taking up a trio of cases that will decide the question. In two cases, employees sued their employers alleging they were let go because they were gay. In the third, a transgender woman sued her employer for terminating her for failing to conform to what the employer characterized as "God's commands."

These decisions will be significant for both workers and employers because they will clarify whether LGBT workers are protected by federal anti-discrimination laws.

Notably, there is no question that Washington State employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Washington State's Law Against Discrimination explicitly protects employees and others from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.