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LGBT workplace discrimination case going to high court

LGBT workers in New Jersey may be intrigued to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in several key cases concerning protections for workers against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The high court will hear three cases from Michigan, Georgia, and New York in which workers sued the companies that fired them; they allege that they were discriminated against for being LGBT. Two men, including a government employee and a skydiving instructor, said they were fired because they were gay. A transgender woman said she lost her job at a funeral home after she announced her transition.

The cases have moved to federal appeals courts, where several have found that LGBT workers are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans sex discrimination. Appeals courts in New York and Chicago have found that gays and lesbians are protected under this provision, and a court in Cincinnati has done the same for transgender workers. However, another federal appeals court in Atlanta has ruled that the provision does not apply to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

One appeals judge argued that it is impossible to understand sexual orientation discrimination without a foundation of sex discrimination. This position was supported by the Justice Department under the Obama administration, but the Trump administration has changed its position, arguing instead that there is no basis in federal law to protect LGBT workers from discriminatory firings.

In many jurisdictions, state or municipal laws may provide higher levels of protection to LGBT people facing workplace discrimination. Workers who have been fired or lost promotions due to their sexual orientation or gender identity can consult with an employment law attorney about their options.

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