Many Californians are already aware of the U.S. Supreme Court decision extending federal legal protections to the LGBT community. On June 15, the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 ruling, held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects against discrimination in employment, applies to discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The majority opinion was written by Justice Gorsuch, an appointee of President Trump.
Some people who identify themselves as “textualists” were unhappy with the decision, saying the majority misjudged the intent of the legislature that wrote the law. Despite their consternation, the reality is that this law will help people in the LGBT community seek remedies in states that do not have their own anti-discrimination laws. However, LGBT workers who live in those states will still be unable to sue their employers under state law.
Before this decision, California state law already protected people in the LGBT community. The Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA, prohibits workplace discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. California encourages employees to come forward with these claims by guaranteeing employees an award of attorney fees if they win on an FEHA claim, which helps plaintiffs’ attorneys bear the burden of shouldering costs for a case up front.
The FEHA protects more than just the LGBT community, and it is only one of several laws in place in California that protect employees. If an employee believes that he or she is being treated differently by an employer on the basis of gender, race, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation, the employee may consult with an employment law attorney to see if there is a basis for filing a lawsuit. Even if an employee is simply perceived to fall within a protected category, such as a straight employee who is incorrectly assumed to be gay, that employee might be able to bring a lawsuit under FEHA.