Hundreds of Companies Call on Supreme Court to End LGBTQ Workplace Discrimination

The Supreme Court Building (via SupremeCourt.gov)
The United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. (via SupremeCourt.gov)

As Metro Weekly‘s John Riley reported earlier today, over 200 companies filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court “in support of three LGBTQ employees who were fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Oral arguments in the consolidated case, Altitude Express v. Zarda, will be heard October 8

The plaintiffs in the combined cases include the late Donald Zarda, Gerald Lynn Bostock and Aimee Stephens. As Riley previously reported in Metro Weekly, Mr. Zarda, who died while appeal was pending, was fired from his position as a skydiver at Altitude Express after his employer learned he was gay. Mr. Bostock’s firing from his Clayton County, Ga., position as a child welfare services coordinator also was alleged to result from anti-gay discrimination. Finally, Ms. Stephens’s firing occurred after she came out as transgender and ” informed her employer of her intent to transition and conform to female dress code standards.” 

Consolidated Cases Raise the Stakes

Because the cases come from multiple federal circuits with differing interpretations of law, the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision could have vast implications. In part, the potential reach of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of Civil Rights Act is at issue, with LGBTQ+ advocates hoping the Court will hold Title VII bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

As Dawn Ennis explained in Forbes last week, the stakes are high: “How the high court rules in the cases of … will determine whether LGBTQ employees are protected from discrimination on the job.” Given the rightward “lurch” of the Supreme Court during the Trump era, especially in the year since Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, expect LGBTQ+ rights advocates to monitor oral arguments this October carefully.

Major Firms Sign Brief Favoring LGBTQ+ Workplace Protections

Today’s twenty-five-page brief lays out a business argument in favor of extending Title VII’s anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ+ Americans. The economic and financial weight behind the brief is enormous, too. As Metro‘s Riley noted, the “206 companies who have signed onto the brief … represent roughly 7.4 million employees from a wide variety of industries, with more than $5 trillion in revenue” combined. 

Among them are major financial firms like American Express, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs; global retailers Macy’s and Under Armour; and tech giants like Facebook and Google, among many others.

In the brief, the companies argue for uniformity in extending Title VII to cover sexuality and gender identity because doing so benefits businesses such as their own. Summarizing their main points, again per Riley, the benefits of uniformity include

allowing [these companies to] attract and retain top talent, improve business efficiency, and ensuring companies don’t incur significant costs by having to replace productive workers and retrain their replacements.

One study cited in the brief notes that companies lose, on average, $8,800 for each LGBTQ employee that leaves a state without LGBTQ protections or a job with a hostile workplace environment because of discrimination on the job.

Altogether, the companies argue, extending uniform non-discrimination protections would allow them to “attract and retain top talent, improve business efficiency, and [ensure] companies don’t incur significant costs by having to replace productive workers and retrain their replacements,” especially given the steep cost estimates provided above. 

To learn more about the late Donald Zarda, be sure to check out Melissa Zarda’s piece in Time Magazine from yesterday. In it, she describes her relationship with and love for Donald, explaining how the example he set for her and others carries on in the fight for justice. It’s a powerful read.

(Source: Metro Weekly)

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