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Supreme Court Hears Three Major Cases On LGBTQ+ Rights

On October 8th, the Supreme Court heard three cases that may have landmark implications for the LGBTQ+ community. Tensions were extremely high as the court heard three consolidated cases regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. While the court’s ruling is not expected until sometime in 2020, it is very relevant for both employees and employers to be aware of the potential fallout depending on the court’s decision.

The Cases

The average person may conclude that LGBTQ+ people have essentially the same rights as heterosexual and cisgender people, especially after 2015’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that gave same-sex couples the right to marry. However, the reality is much harsher. Many states (including South Carolina) offer almost no protections for LGBTQ+ people against discrimination, especially in employment. The Human Rights Council reports that only 33 states have any kind of anti-discrimination protections at all for LGBTQ+ people, and only 21 states ban such discrimination entirely.

The three plaintiffs before the Supreme Court on October 8 were all fired from their jobs for being gay or transgender. Lower courts ruled in different ways on their claims, but similar arguments were made in all three cases—that their sex affected their employer’s treatment of them. For example, an employer will not fire a cisgender woman for dressing as a woman, but as soon as a transgender woman comes out to her employer, she may be fired for doing the same thing. 

What Does This Mean For Me?

If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, nothing will change regarding your employment rights in the foreseeable future. Some localities have passed more wide-reaching anti-discrimination laws, such as Mount Pleasant and Richland County.  However, no statewide protections exist for LGBTQ+ people in hiring, firing, or any other part of the employment process. In addition, South Carolina has no statewide laws of any kind that explicitly protect same-sex couples.

Nothing will change in South Carolina if the court rules against the plaintiffs in these consolidated cases. The municipalities with antidiscrimination ordinances will be permitted to keep them on the books, because a ruling like this would not bar protecting LGBTQ people—it would merely say that an employer is not required to protect them.

If the Supreme Court rules in the plaintiffs’ favor, however, it would be an immediate change—namely, that an employer is not permitted, under all but the rarest circumstances, to take negative action against an employee because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Only time will tell.

Call A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Lawyer

While the public must wait for a ruling on the three cases, you may not have that kind of time. If you need help dealing with employment discrimination today, attorney A. Christopher Potts is ready to assist you. The firm of Hitchcock & Potts has had years of experience in this area of law and we are ready to put it to work for you. Don’t hesitate to contact us today.

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