The U. S. Supreme Court will hear job discrimination cases that could for the first time resolve whether lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (“LGBTQ”) employees can be fired based on their sexual orientation. While some federal courts, including the Western District of Pennsylvania, have recently extended Title VII’s prohibition against gender discrimination to sexual orientation, there is no national law explicitly barring employment discrimination against LGBTQ people. Currently, LGBTQ employees can be fired in approximately 30 states for being LGBTQ. Two of the cases on the Court’s summer docket involve employees who claim they were fired because of their sexual orientation, while another case involves an employee who was terminated after announcing that she would start dressing in women’s clothes as a transgender woman.
The three cases the court has accepted are the first concerning LGBTQ rights since Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement last summer. His replacement by the more conservative Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh could shift the Court’s approach to these cases. Should the Court rule that Title VII’s protections extend to LGBTQ employees, the landscape of employment law will change with respect to discrimination and harassment charges and employee benefit matters.