On Monday, June 15, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a federal civil rights law from the 1960s protects gay and transgender workers in a surprising 6-3 ruling. The Court said that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “because of sex,” includes gay and transgender employees.
The ruling provides clarity for lower courts and state officials. Many states’ officials have been working with a mix of different nondiscrimination policies. In Illinois, gay and transgender workers are already protected from discrimination. In 2006, amendments to the state’s Human Rights Act ensured that LGBT workers can file complaints with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, a state agency created under the law to handle discrimination complaints. Chicago and Cook County also have protections for gay and transgender individuals.
This Supreme Court ruling at the federal level means that Illinois residents who are LGBT can now also file claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and pursue their cases in federal court. It will also protect Illinois residents who are working outside of the state.
It was in January 2005 that then Governor Rod Blagojevich signed an amendment to the Illinois Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis on a person’s sexual orientation, and the law became effective the following January. The amendment was intended to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations and certain financial transactions. It defined sexual orientation as an individual’s “actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender-related identity, whether or not traditionally associated with the person’s designated sex at birth.” The Illinois Department of Human Rights was vested with the authority to enforce under the amended Act.
In Illinois, employers are prohibited from refusing to hire, fire or in any way discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered individuals in any terms or conditions of employment. In regard to other non-employment issues, it prohibits discrimination for these individuals in the sale of real estate, the rental of owner-occupied buildings with more than five units, financial credit and public accommodation.
A number of Illinois cities besides Chicago also protect the LGBT community including Bloomington, Carbondale Evanston, Naperville and several others throughout the state. In 21 other states, plus the District of Columbia, employees also have full protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodation. In all other states before this decision, an employee could be fired for being gay or transgender and not be able to file suit in that state court.
The decision this week aligns with several others that have come out of the Supreme Court during the past 5 years, including the right to same-sex marriage in 2015. An employee who got married to a same-sex partner in the morning faced potential firing in the afternoon at a job for being gay before this decision.
Cramer Law understands the issues facing employees who have lost their employment or felt the sting of discrimination in real estate or other financial matters, and has successfully represented a number of individuals in such matters.