Is Your Employee Handbook Up-To-Date?
In a landmark case addressing civil rights of those in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the United States Supreme Court upheld and provided further interpretation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, also known as Title VII. Decided by a 6-3 vote on June 15, 2020, the court stated that the law effectively prohibitions job discrimination based on sex. According to the federal anti-bias law, LGBT workers are effectively protected.
“An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions,” said Justice Neil Gorsuch in his Opinion of the Court. “That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”
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While many states already have laws on the books that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the Supreme Court’s ruling makes equal treatment of LGBT employees a federal mandate.
As a result of this historic ruling, employers with 15 or more employees, as determined in the original Title VII language, should take the time to review their company’s Employee Handbook to ensure that all employment policies reflect federal compliance with these newly-interpreted employment regulations.
“In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee,” the Opinion of the Court states. “We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”
With regard to employers with fewer than 15 employees, they will continue to be governed by the anti-discrimination laws outlined by their states and local authorities. Additionally, according to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), those who work within the “gig economy,” meaning individuals who engage in income-earning activities outside of a traditional, long-term employer-employee relationship, such as an Uber or Lyft driver, generally aren’t covered by anti-discrimination and other laws that protect employees.
For more information about these changes, or to address changes to your company’s Employee Handbook, email the Rea & Associates human resources consulting services team.
By Renee West, SHRM-SCP, PHR (HR Consulting Services)