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Supreme Court to hear LGBT workplace discrimination cases

Florida residents may be aware that a contentious legal debate is taking place over whether or not the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protect LGBT individuals. Title VII of the landmark law prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or national origin, but it makes no mention of gender identity or sexual orientation. Lawmakers do not seem eager to address this protection gap and federal courts have made contradictory rulings on the issue, but a recent statement from the U.S. Supreme Court suggests that the matter will soon be resolved.

On April 22, the nation's highest court announced that it would hear arguments in a pair of cases dealing with workplace discrimination against gay workers. The rulings made by federal appeals courts in the two cases fall on both sides of the legal argument. The Supreme Court says that it will also rule on a case involving a funeral home worker who was fired after her employer learned that she was transgender.

The arguments in all of these cases will focus on whether or not the Title VII protections against sex discrimination apply to the workers involved. Attorneys representing the workers will argue that sexual orientation and gender identity are functions of sex and discrimination based on them is therefore prohibited under federal law. The justices are expected to hear arguments and make their rulings in the fall.

These cases reveal that the legal road traveled by those who pursue civil remedies after being treated unfairly at work is often difficult. Attorneys who have provided LGBT workplace discrimination assistance in the past may advise individuals considering such an action to keep detailed records of homophobic or transphobic incidents that include the names of any witnesses. Other evidence that could support discrimination actions includes company policies that exclude or marginalize LGBT employees and emails or other corporate communications containing demeaning, insulting, or contemptuous language.

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