WASHINGTON, D.C. (WJMN)- The Supreme Court began its new term Tuesday with some controversial cases.
Three workplace discrimination lawsuits were heard by the judges to determine if an employer can fire an employee based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that federal law prohibits discrimination of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. A question that is being asked is whether federal law includes workspace protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
One of the cases being heard is about Aimee Stephens, a Michigan transgender woman, who claims she was fired from her job at a Livonia funeral home for not following the sex-based dress code.
Our D.C, Bureau reporter, Raquel Martin, spoke with the funeral home’s lawyer John Bursch before the hearings took place.
He said changing the definition of “sex” could cause serious harm.
“That decision to apply to sex-specific dress code based on the biological sex of his employees is completely in accord with federal law. It could hurt women and girls in athletics, and could impact people in bodily private spaces,” said Bursch, Bursch Law PLLC.
Justice Neil Gorsuch argues that the definition of “sex” in Title VII will cause problems.
“There would be a massive social upheaval if the court was to change or expand the definition of the word sex to include gender identity and sexual orientation,” Gorsuch said.
While the Supreme Court hearings continue to take place, Local 3 was able to speak with Henry Sale and Nat Ehrig, the co-presidents of Northern Michigan University’s Queers and Allies group. The group offers “social activities and a place for queers and allies to be able to openly express themselves in a relaxed and non-judgmental environment. “
They expressed their thoughts on the Supreme Court hearings, and what kind of impact this could leave on the LGBTQ+ community.
“The workplace can be very awful for queer people, and a lot of the times because there isn’t a lot that protects you, you can’t do much about it. If you go to HR what are they supposed to do for you? Tell the person to knock it off?” said Ehrig.
“Not all people go home to a welcoming environment, so they have to create their own […] most people spend the majority of their time at work, which consists of people who can not only judge you but impact your life in a major way,” said Sale.
The Supreme Court is not expected to make a decision on these hearings until next summer.
In the meantime, you can file a complaint or charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.