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Employers urge Supreme Court to extend Title VII protections

The California-based Walt Disney Company is one of more than 200 employers that recently submitted a letter urging the U.S. Supreme Court to extend protections provided by the Civil Rights Act to LGBT and transgender workers. Title VII of the landmark 1964 law prohibits discrimination based on gender, but it does not specifically mention sexual orientation or gender identity. Courts in New York, Illinois and Ohio have recently ruled to extend these protections. The nation's highest court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the issue on Oct. 8.

The list of companies behind the amicus curiae brief, which was released on July 2 by five LGBT advocacy groups, includes the Bank of America, Xerox, IBM, Nike, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Coca-Cola and Microsoft. The brief states that corporate polices dealing with discrimination and a patchwork of state laws and regulations are not enough to protect LGBT and transgender workers.

The companies are calling for a uniform federal rule that would extend Title VII protections in all 50 states. This was the stated goal of the Department of Justice under President Obama, but the Trump administration has changed course. The justices will hear arguments in three cases involving two gay workers who claim that they were fired because of their sexual orientation and a transgender woman who says she lost her job due to her gender identity.

Proving that an adverse employment action was motivated by racism or bigotry is often difficult as employers will usually justify their actions by pointing to a workplace violation of some sort. Attorneys with employment law experience may advise their clients to prepare for this tactic by keeping detailed records of discrimination and unfair treatment. These records could include details of inappropriate comments along with the names of any witnesses present and company documents that suggest the presence of workplace bias.

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