WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Supreme Court, in a ruling issued on June 16, affirmed that sex-based discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The decision is significant because some Circuit Courts ruled that sex discrimination didn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity which left LGBTQ+ communities subject to “lawful” discrimination and harassment at work under federal law and in states that do not recognize these groups as protected classes in state anti-discrimination laws.
“This decision continues the fight to ensure that every worker has dignity on the job,” said James P. Hoffa, general president. “Every person who shows up for work deserves to be treated equally, fairly and with the respect they deserve. No one should face discrimination for their sexual orientation, identity or for any other reason.”
A negative court decision would have left the LGBTQ+ community vulnerable to lawful discrimination at the federal level and in most states where anti-discrimination statutes do not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes.
The Teamsters Union, SEIU and Jobs with Justice filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff’s case that told the stories of women who work in non-traditional fields who have been labeled as transgender, bisexual or lesbian, even if they are not, as a form of harassment or discrimination. The brief showed that no clear or easy line can carve out discrimination on the basis of being LGBTQ+ from Title VII, as sometimes claims and stereotypes about what it means to be gay or transgender affect heterosexual and cisgendered people as well. The brief highlighted the experience of Teamsters Local Union 630 and Teamsters LGBTQ+ caucus member Laura McAdams.
“The relief this decision provides my LGBTQ+ community who has suffered so much discrimination in the workplace, is monumental,” said McAdams. “As one of the members of this community I can personally testify to the injustice that has prevailed and welcome a workplace that provides equality for all. Thank you to the six Supreme Court justices who helped millions of Americans and thank you IBT.”
The Teamsters Human Rights and Diversity Commission (HRDC) was established by the Hoffa administration to ensure that all Teamsters communities have a voice in the union.
“The Supreme Court has finally confirmed what we have known for a long time, every worker is entitled to a workplace free of discrimination,” said Marcus King, director of the Teamsters HRDC. “The right of every worker to do their job without judgement or abuse because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is now codified by the courts.”
Prior to the surprise decision, the Teamsters LGBTQ+ Caucus was preparing its members to start moving state legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity, and also place it in collective bargaining agreement Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) clauses. While this is no longer necessary for employees covered by Title VII, the work continues for public sector employees who live in states that may not adopt the Supreme Court’s interpretation when applying state anti-discrimination laws.
“For years, members of unions have worked to have collective bargaining agreements with protections for LGBTQ+ people,” said Margo Storsteen, President of the Teamsters LGBTQ+ Caucus. “The Supreme Court’s decision strengthens our belief that every worker is valued.”