U.S. Supreme Court ruling protects LGBT people from job discrimination

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that civil rights laws protect LGBT people from job discrimination, a decision that will impact public school employment and possibly students’ rights. KASB attorneys are currently analyzing the decision and will provide more information as soon as possible to Kansas education leaders.

In a 6-3 decision, the court said a key provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act known as Title VII that prohibits discrimination in employment because of sex, also prohibits discrimination against workers based on sexual orientation or transgender status.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on sex, race, color, national origin and religion. Lawyers for employers argued Congress did not intend for Title VII to protect gay and transgender people when it passed the law.

But NSBA, the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers and AASA, the School Superintendent’s Association disagreed with that interpretation and filed a friend-of-the-court legal brief in the case. In that brief, the school groups argued that Title VII’s plain text eliminates “irrelevant characteristics from school employment decisions.” Prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status will help retain quality staff and establish a positive and inclusive school environment that will help students feel safe and succeed, the groups argued.

NSBA represents state school board associations across the country, including KASB, as well as 90,000 local school board members. NEA and AFT represent nearly 5 million members combined and AASA has about 13,000 school leaders.

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