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National Anti-Poverty and Child and Family Welfare Groups Urge Supreme Court to Preserve Workplace Protections for LGBTQ People

Amicus brief looks at the adverse effects of employment discrimination against LGBTQ people

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Several organizations dedicated to fighting poverty and advocating for children and families, represented by pro bono counsel at Latham & Watkins LLP and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), submitted a friend-of-the-court brief today that urges the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of LGBTQ employees who have workplace discrimination cases before the court. 

The Supreme Court announced on April 22 that it would review three cases, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, Altitude Express v. Zarda and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia (which has been consolidated with Zarda), all of which address the question whether the prohibition on discrimination “because of sex” found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  

The brief examines the harmful effects of employment discrimination against LGBTQ people – especially LGBTQ women, people of color, and those in small, rural communities. It also looks at the impact on those individuals, their families and the community at large. 

In particular, the brief shows that the harm resulting from excluding LGBTQ people from workplace protections can create a cycle of cascading harms that reach far beyond the direct target of the discrimination.  

In addition to harming the mental and physical well-being of individual targets of discrimination – some of whom will be left jobless, homeless and reliant on government assistance – LGBTQ workplace discrimination forces some people to make an impossible choice between having a job or maintaining a relationship, and exposes the children of LGBTQ parents to increased risk of poverty and associated harms. 

“Excluding LGBTQ people from federal protections for sex-based discrimination in the workplace is just wrong, plain and simple,” said Beth Littrell, senior attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “No one should have to choose between making a living and being who they are. These harms affect more than just LGBTQ individuals – more than 3 million children are being raised by LGBTQ parents. Excluding LGBTQ people from these vital federal protections would be cruel and unjust, contradicting the many courts and agencies that have already said it is unlawful sex discrimination. The Supreme Court must uphold these critical federal discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.”

Although LGBTQ people make up more than 4 percent of the U.S. population and around 6 percent of the workforce, LGBTQ peoplecontinue to face workplace discrimination at an alarming rate. According to a Williams Institute study, nearly one in 10 LGB employees has reported losing a job because of their sex. Other reports conclude that up to 37 percent of gay and lesbian individuals, and 90 percent of transgender people, have been harassed at work.

“Empirical evidence shows that LGBT people experience pernicious and disproportionate employment discrimination across geographies, industries, and sectors of the Nation’s workforce,” the brief states.

The Supreme Court’s decision in these cases about federal sex discrimination law could have drastic consequences not only for the LGBTQindividuals who are the targets of discrimination, but also for their families, their communities, and for society. 

The SPLC, the Economic Policy Institute; the National Association of Social Workers; the Poverty and Race Research Action Council; 9to5 National Association of Working Women; Demos; The National Center for Law and Economic Justice and the Children's Defense Fund jointly signed onto the brief.

You can find the full brief here: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/2019-07-02_amicus.pdf