Understanding LGBTQ+ Workplace Rights
By: Joshua C. Black, Esq.
One year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court made a landmark ruling advancing the rights of LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace. The Court ruled that the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 indeed prohibits workplace discrimination against those in the LGBTQ+ community, just as it prohibits discrimination due to an employee’s gender, race, disability, national origin, or religion.
This ruling was a significant victory for LGBTQ+ equality in the workplace. During Pride Month, and beyond, it is important to reflect on the strides being made to protect people who have historically been subjected to discrimination and abuse, and recognize the lengths still needed to build a more inclusive and non-discriminative workplace.
Surprisingly, up until 2020, the LGBTQ+ community—made of up of approximately 1 million workers who identify as transgender and 7.1 million lesbian, gay and bisexual workers—has not officially had federal protections against discrimination in the workplace.
Last June, the Supreme Court heard a group of cases regarding job discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status and, for the first time since 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was codified, people in the LGBTQ+ community are now federally protected against discrimination at work based on their sexual orientation or gender identification. When the law was originally passed, nearly six decades ago, Congress did not explicitly consider the rights of LGBTQ+ people. The Court reasoned that fact does not—and should not—exclude members of this community from the right to be protected from discrimination in the workplace.
Because of the 2020 ruling, employers are now required to provide the same job opportunities and conditions for LGBTQ+ employees as all other employees. While this means that one’s sexual orientation can no longer be used to refuse hiring, promotion, or instigate job termination, it also doesn't necessarily mean all employers or coworkers are going to automatically be welcoming and accepting.
There is still more work to be done to create a fairer and more equitable environment for all working people, build an inclusive work environment, and ensure equity along lines of race, gender, sexual orientation and ability.
Employers should be cognizant of and willing to consider potential accommodations for transgendered employees, who may require modifications in the workplace to make them feel comfortable and on an equal playing field with other members of the team. When companies make a visible stand against prejudice, it sends a significant message to all employees about tolerance and acceptance.
To create equitable workspaces, businesses should make sure the corporate leadership includes people who represent diverse perspectives such as those held by the LGBTQ+ and other minority communities. Communicating and enforcing anti-discrimination policies in the workplace, incorporating practices such as the recognition of an employee's chosen pronouns, and advocating for civil rights legislation that protects underrepresented employees are also key to long term success of a more inclusive and diverse work culture.
If you feel you have been unfairly discriminated against at your place of employment, or would like to speak with an Arizona employment attorney regarding your experiences, contact the Law Office of Joshua Black, PLC, at (623) 738-2225.