In a highly anticipated ruling, in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of a cake shop owner who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs. The case highlights the potentially conflicting intersection of religious freedoms and anti-discrimination laws; i.e. the right to hold sincere religious beliefs and the right to be treated equally and without discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation. READ MORE
North Carolina’s “Bathroom Bill” Dealt a Blow as Debate on Transgender Access Continues
On August 26, 2016, a North Carolina federal judge blocked the University of North Carolina (UNC) from enforcing a state law requiring transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.
With the passage of House Bill 2 (HB2) in March 2016, North Carolina became the first state to ban people from using restrooms consistent with their gender identity in government buildings and schools. News of HB2 stirred up a public outcry, including a Department of Justice lawsuit and the NBA’s decision to relocate the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte, North Carolina to another location.
Maryland’s Amendment Would Expand Equal Pay to Include “Gender Identity,” Strengthen Protections Along Other More Familiar Lines
As we noted in last week’s coverage of Equal Pay Day’s twentieth anniversary, the issue of equal pay has been drawing increasing attention from regulators, legislators and plaintiffs’ attorneys nationwide. Of particular note, a report issued in January 2016 by the National Women’s Law Center highlighted the unprecedented level of new equal pay legislation at the state level. Leading this wave of activity, both New York’s Achieve Pay Equity law and California’s Fair Pay Act law have in place the broadest protections for employees seeking to bring gender-based equal pay claims. Additionally, a number of other states have adopted piecemeal legislation addressing equal pay, such as prohibiting employer retaliation based on employee discussions of wages (Connecticut, New Hampshire, Oregon), holding state contractors responsible for certifying their equal pay compliance (Delaware, Minnesota, Oregon), increasing civil penalties for equal pay violations (Illinois), or requiring employers to maintain wage records in anticipation of potential state government inquiries (North Dakota).
Leading the Way on Transgender Rights in NYC: City Commission on Human Rights Issues Detailed Enforcement Guidance
On December 21, 2015, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (Commission) issued Legal Enforcement Guidance (Guidance) clarifying New York City’s prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. Discrimination based on gender identity and expression in employment, housing and public accommodations has been illegal under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) since 2002. According to the accompanying press release, the Guidance is intended to make clear, through specific examples, what the Commission considers gender identity and gender expression discrimination under the City law and to offer best practices to employers and other stakeholders on how to comply with the law. The Guidance also solidifies New York City’s place as having one of the most protective laws in the country for transgender and other gender non-conforming individuals.
EEOC Rules that Sexual Orientation Discrimination is Sex Discrimination Under Title VII
On the heels of the landmark decision by the Supreme Court in favor of gay marriage, the EEOC held on July 15, 2015 that sex discrimination under Title VII includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Even though the decision is not binding precedent in federal court, and runs contrary to a significant body of case law holding that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it could be regarded by some courts as persuasive authority. The decision could also have an impact on employers in the form of an increased number of administrative charges of discrimination filed with the EEOC based on sexual orientation, as courts determine whether to adopt the EEOC’s interpretation.
Emergence of Transgender Status Issues in Workplace Raises Compliance Questions for Employers
Transgender issues have been grabbing headlines in recent months—perhaps most notably with Bruce Jenner’s televised announcement about his gender transition. Beyond the bright lights of pop culture, a wave of litigation and legislation is causing employers to pay closer attention to transgender discrimination and related issues. As we noted in August of last year, there is an increasing trend toward protecting gender identity and transgender status. This post provides an update and a high-level overview of the landscape in this emerging area and offers some tips for employers to minimize risk.
Let’s Talk About Sex: U.S. Department of Labor Targets Transgender & Gender Identity Discrimination
On Tuesday, August 19, 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a directive to “clarify that existing agency guidance on discrimination on the basis of sex . . . includes discrimination on the bases of gender identity and transgender status.” This directive follows President Obama’s Executive Order 13672, issued on July 21, 2014, amending existing orders to specifically prohibit federal contractors from discriminating based on gender identity.