Federal law protects several specific groups from discrimination at work. While most people in Wisconsin know that it is illegal to discriminate against a worker for his or her religion or gender, two current U.S. Supreme Court cases could add another protected group — sexual orientation. Depending on the outcome, members of the LGBTQ community could possibly pursue workplace discrimination claims in the future.
A former county government worker from Georgia and a former skydiving instructor are part of the first case. Both claim that they were fired after their employers learned of their sexual orientations. The second case involves a transgender woman who says she was fired from her position as the director of a funeral home.
Both cases argue that LGBTQ workers should be protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. During the hearings, it was suggested by Justice Elena Kagan that discrimination based on sexual orientation falls under sex discrimination. Justice Samuel Alito disagreed, stating that the members of Congress in 1964 likely did not imagine protecting gender identity or sexual orientation. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg countered this point by pointing out that those same members of Congress did not foresee sexual harassment as discrimination.
While Wisconsin employers and members of the LGBTQ community can expect a ruling by the summer of 2020, there are still many protected workers who are dealing with ongoing discrimination. Workplace discrimination can take many forms, including being passed over for promotions, not receiving justified raises and even being fired. For these individuals, pursuing civil claims against discriminatory employers can be helpful for achieving compensation and protecting future workers.