The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will decide whether existing civil rights law bans discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation.
Federal law prohibits workplace discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender or national origin but does not explicitly cover sexual orientation or gender identification. The court’s decision to hear the case comes amid a national movement pushing for a ban on such discrimination.
The high court said it would hear a case that’s divided lower courts. Two appellate courts have previously ruled that employers violate the Title VII law by firing employees based on the fact they are gay or transgender.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in 2015 Title VII protects against LGBT discrimination in the workplace. The Justice Department in the Obama administration supported that decision.
One of the cases that will be heard by the Supreme Court includes a skydiving instructor who told a woman she shouldn’t worry about being strapped tightly against him because he’s gay. The New York man was later fired.
In another case, a woman was fired from a Michigan funeral home because she told her employer she was transgender and didn’t follow the dress code. In a third case, a Georgia man lost his county job after his employer discovered he participated in a gay softball league.
The Supreme Court, which begins its next term in October, has previously declined to hear cases on the issue.
If the high court rules LGBT persons should be protected by the law, experts believe it could revolutionize protections for employees in the workplace as well as situations in housing and public accommodations.
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