What Title VII civil rights ruling means for employers
What Title VII civil rights ruling means for employers
19 JUNE 2020 7:51 AM

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Title VII workplace protections for sexual orientation and gender identity is cause for employers in the hotel industry to examine their policies and practices.

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Employers in the hotel industry may need to review policies in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Title VII “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin,” according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Many courts had already interpreted Title VII to include sexual orientation and gender identity under its protections, but there was a split resulting from decisions by the second, sixth and 11th circuit courts of appeal, said Sylvia Bokyung St. Clair, associate at Faegre Drinker. Many states already had laws that provided these protections as well, she said.

“What this decision did was it affirmatively, explicitly held that Title VII does in fact cover both sexual orientation and gender identity, even if they’re not explicitly listed under the title,” she said.

The decision means employers can’t make decisions about hiring, the selection process, promotions, transfers, pay, tenure, discipline and termination on the basis of these protected characteristics, she said.

For most employers operating in states that had these protections in place, there shouldn’t be an immediate rush to do anything, St. Clair said. Employers in these states presumably already have the policies in place and have trained their supervisors on how to handle employees with these protected characteristics, she said.

Employers operating in states where these protections didn’t already exist should take a look at their policies to ensure their anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies include these updated protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity, she said. They should also update their anti-harassment training modules to include scenarios reflecting LGBTQ issues, and consider policies related to restroom usage in the workplace, she said.

Employers should watch for the EEOC to provide further guidance for their policies and training, she said.

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