In late August, South Carolina’s Attorney General, Alan Wilson, signed onto an amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court in the case of R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) et al. This case is due to be argued before the Supreme Court during its next term. As of this writing, South Carolina does not recognize sexual orientation or gender identity as worthy of anti-discrimination protections. Mr. Wilson’s choice signals a worryingly inhospitable environment for LGBTQ+ people in the state.
Do you feel that you have been discriminated against as an LGBTQ+ member? If so, do not tolerate this behavior. Contact the law firm of Hitchcock & Potts to discuss your options.
Gender, Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity
The case of Harris Funeral Homes involves a transgender woman who alleges she was unlawfully terminated due to her gender identity. She then filed a claim with the EEOC based on sex discrimination.
This may seem counterintuitive, given that sex/gender and gender identity are two different things. However, past cases in other circuits have shown that they are two sides of the same proverbial coin. It can be argued—often justifiably—that LGBTQ+ people are held to a certain set of societal standards that are, in reality, arbitrary. And, when they fail to conform to those standards, they are penalized, while heterosexual, cisgender people would not be.
Take for example the case of Hively v. Ivy Tech (2017), a case from the Seventh Circuit. The plaintiff, a lesbian, was penalized for not adhering to the “normal” female stereotype of being in a relationship with a man. A man would not have been penalized for being in a relationship with a woman, because such would be seen as “normal.”
When a man and a woman are treated differently over the same action, it can plausibly be called sex discrimination. Yet the brief Mr. Wilson attaches to his name argues that this is a judicial overreach, and that LGBTQ+ people are not being discriminated against, even though their actions are criminalized in this way.
Bringing Suit In South Carolina
If you are LGBTQ+ and you believe that you have been discriminated against in hiring or employment in South Carolina, you do have options. Do know that they might be slimmer than others in similar positions. This is because South Carolina is one of the few states that has no employment protections of any kind for LGBTQ+ people. There are a few cities and counties, though, that have passed resolutions barring discrimination on this basis (most notably Myrtle Beach). When no state law exists, it is usually recommended to try and file a complaint under federal law. But, as one can infer, no federal protections exist against LGBTQ+ discrimination in employment.
Speaking to an experienced employment discrimination attorney is always a good idea, even though it can feel as though you are stuck with no recourse. Sometimes the mere presence of an attorney can cause an employer to change their ways—if nothing else, you will have a clear idea of what your rights are in these situations. While it remains to be seen how the case of Harris Funeral Homes will be decided, it is not a good sign that SC Attorney General Mr. Wilson has chosen to sign onto a Supreme Court brief that actively seeks to quash the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
Call A Dedicated South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney
Alan Wilson’s apparent disinterest in protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ South Carolinians does not mean that all is lost if you are mistreated by an employer or potential employer. Contacting a dedicated employment discrimination attorney at the firm of Hitchcock & Potts can help you understand your options, and reinforce that you are not alone. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has handled these cases for years, and is happy to help with yours.