Supreme Court of the United States

Equality Act Strengthens Workplace Retaliation & Harassment Protections

marriage equality case at the Supreme Court of the United StatesIn June of this year, the United States Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision on Marriage Equality that is being heralded as a significant victory over sexual preference and gender identity discrimination in this country.

In Obergefell v. Hodges, the court held that the U.S. Constitution requires states to license and recognize marriages between two people of the same sex, making marriage equality officially the law of the land.

But even though the Supreme Court’s ruling brought marriage equality to all 50 states, 31 states still lack clear, fully-inclusive non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.

That means LGBT Americans can get legally married but still be at risk of being denied services for who they are, or risk being fired simply for getting married and wearing their wedding ring to the office the next day.

Discrimination is a very real problem that persists for too many LGBT Americans. Nearly two-thirds of those who self-identify as being LGBT report experiencing some form of discrimination in their personal lives.

The problems come up over and over again in the 31 states that don’t have clear, fully-inclusive LGBT non-discrimination laws, Take for example these recent cases:

  • The Kentucky school teacher who was fired after her principal found out she was planning to get pregnant and have a child with her female partner.
  • The lesbian couple, also in Kentucky, who were asked to leave a park while shooting maternity photos after they kissed in public.
  • The transgender woman shamefully denied housing at a Texas Salvation Army shelter because she has not undergone “gender affirming” surgery.

Despite the incredible progress on issues from marriage to military service, stories like these three are far too common.

Introduced in the U.S. Senate by Jeff Merkley, Tammy Baldwin, and Cory Booker, and in the U.S. House of Representatives by David Cicilline and John Lewis, the Equality Act establishes specific, permanent protections against discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity in matters of employment, housing, access to public places, federal funding, credit, education and jury service.

Additionally, the Act bars discrimination on the basis of sex in federal funding and access to public places.

California is one of the 19 states with anti-discrimination laws on the books. Extensive protections for LGBT people exist under California law, particularly for housing, credit, labor and/or employment. In addition, sections of In re Marriage Cases not overturned by Proposition 8 include the establishment of sexual orientation as a “protected class” under California law. This brings the added requirement of heightened scrutiny in all discrimination disputes.

So while the Equality Act provides much-needed protections for the LGBT community in all 50 states, it also reinforces protections already in place for all citizens, male and female, as well as all racial, ethnic and religious minorities.


Shoved Out the Door: Wrongful Termination

employee-rights--law-wrongful-terminationMany employees get caught up in worrying about possible job loss for various reasons, or possible workplace retaliation if they have blown the whistle on an occurrence of wrong-doing in the company. It’s certainly a distressing thing to lose your job. When the cause for the job loss seems inexplicable, it may be time foe you to consult an employment attorney.

The End of a Job

Any time someone leaves a job other than voluntarily, there will be questions as to why the employee has been let go. There are a number of causes that can justify an employee’s termination, but there are a number of causes that do not fit that bill. There are some cases were an employer may fire someone for what are basically illegal reasons. This is what is called “wrongful termination.”

Wrongful Termination

Although most employment conditions give the employer the right to terminate a worker’s employment “at will”, there are some reasons that are inappropriate. A specific job loss may need to be evaluated on an individual basis, but there are certain elements that can indicate that the termination was wrong.

Situations that constitute wrongful termination include

  • Termination contrary to a specific law or regulation
  • For exposing a company practice of withholding earned commissions and accrued vacation pay
  • For taking time off to complete jury duty
  • Taking time off to vote
  • For serving in the National Guard or military
  • For blowing the whistle to authorities about company activities that are harmful to the public
  • Discrimination for race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, pregnancy
  • Retaliation

.Any of these causes for termination would be considered wrongful. An employment attorney can help clarify if a terminated employee has cause for protesting.

Protesting a Dismissal

If you or anyone you know has endured what you believe to be a wrongful termination, seek the advice of an employment lawyer. Have detailed notes and records (if possible) of actions and communications from supervisors and other members of management that you have received. It’s possible that you may have cause to contest the termination of your employment. It is worth it to take a stand when you believe you have been wrongfully let go.