After years of disappointing LGBT rights employment decisions things are looking up!

It’s been a good couple of weeks for LGBT rights in the workplace.

First, on February 26 the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals joined our own Seventh Circuit in holding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.  We’ve been watching this case for a while now.  Last summer, a panel of three judges in the 2nd circuit held that Title VII does not afford LGBT rights.  The attorneys for the Plaintiff in that case, however, persisted and requested that the 2nd Circuit hear the case en banc (meaning all the judges weigh in).  This persistence paid off and Mr. Zarda (who tragically died in an accident before he could see the case to fruition) would no doubt be proud.  Even better, this ruling ignored the awful brief filed by the Trump administration (which reversed former President Obama’s stance) that said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was not intended to protect to gay workers.

Then, this past Wednesday, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held that Title VII prohibits discrimination against transgender employees!  This was a case in which a funeral home fired a transgender woman and then claimed that Title VII did not prohibit the firing and that it had the right to do so under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  The Court was having none of that defense and held that employing a transgender woman did not infringe on the owners’ right to the exercise their religion.

The Supreme Court long ago held that Title VII prohibits gender stereotyping (i.e. discriminating against someone because they do not conform to society’s norms of what a traditional woman/man should look or act like).  But, this is the first case where a Court of Appeals has specifically held that Title VII extends to transgender employees just because they are transgender.

Here’s to hoping the next few weeks and months are equally as good for employees!  In the meantime, we’ll be celebrating these two decisions.