David Garland Quoted in “What Does the High Court’s LGBTQ Ruling Mean for Employee Benefits?”SHRM June 24, 2020
David W. Garland, Member of the Firm and Chair of the firm’s National Employment, Labor & Workforce Management Steering Committee, was quoted in SHRM, in “What Does the High Court’s LGBTQ Ruling Mean for Employee Benefits?” by Lisa Nagele-Piazza.
Following is an excerpt:
The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that employers can’t terminate workers based on their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) status, and employers should understand that the ruling provides employment protections beyond being fired.
The ruling is significant, said David Garland, an attorney with Epstein Becker & Green in New York City. The decision makes clear that “sex” discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
Title VII prohibits an employer from discriminating against workers based on protected characteristics with respect to terms and conditions of employment, including hiring, firing, laying off, training or disciplining.
“An employer may not discriminate with respect to benefits provided to any group of similarly situated workers that includes members of a protected class,” Garland noted. “That would be particularly true with respect to health care coverage, parental leave and similar emoluments.” …
Under Title VII, employers are prohibited from discriminating against workers because of their color, national origin, race, religion or sex. The act makes it unlawful for an employer to “fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.”
The Supreme Court held in its landmark ruling, Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga., that an employee’s “homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions.”
Federal appeals courts had disagreed on whether Title VII’s ban on discrimination based on sex included LGBTQ status, but the high court found that “it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”
The decision focused on unlawful terminations, which were the subject of the cases before the court, but the ruling extends to all employment actions that are protected under Title VII. …
Of course, Garland noted, employers will still be able to defend such discrimination claims in the same ways they have defended against other Title VII discrimination charges. In the event that an employee can make a viable, initial claim of discrimination—or prima-facie case—the employer will then have the opportunity to show nondiscriminatory reasons for the employment action.
“As is the case generally with respect to Title VII, it is a best practice not only to be fair but to document employee-related decisions, furnish accurate evaluations, and maintain and publicize anti-discrimination policies,” Garland said.
Employers should note that Title VII applies to employers with at least 15 employees, though many state and local anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBTQ workers apply to smaller employers.