New Yorkers who have been discriminated against in the workplace for being gay, lesbian or transgender can now file a lawsuit in either state or federal court. Though New York already had its own laws on the books prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the federal government only just caught up to speed, thanks to a recent U.S. Supreme Court interpretation of federal law.
The US Supreme Court decision
On June 15, six of the Supreme Court’s nine justices ruled in favor of one transgender and one homosexual plaintiff who each brought claims against their employers for discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Surprisingly, it was President Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch who wrote the majority opinion and said that sexual orientation and gender identity necessarily relate to a person’s sex, a characteristic that is covered by Title VII. The dissenting judges argued that sexual orientation and gender identity should be excluded from protection because the authors of Title VII did not intend to protect them at the time the Civil Rights Act was written.
How this impacts New Yorkers
Individuals who have been discriminated against based on their LGBT status can now file claims with the federal government, which involves the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Though people in the LGBT community can now file discrimination claims in federal court under federal law, there is unlikely to be a major change in the way that lawsuits are filed, as state courts are typically more favorable to employees than federal courts. Additionally, even if a case has to be filed in federal court based on something like jurisdiction, state law claims can still be alleged in the federal lawsuit.
If you feel you’ve been discriminated against or wrongfully terminated because of your LGBT status (or perceived status, even if you are not LGBT), an employment law attorney can help you determine how best to proceed. Filing a lawsuit often takes a lot of planning and gathering of evidence. If you do not know whether you have a valid claim for discrimination, an employment law attorney could help you make that determination as well.