The US Supreme Court agreed Monday to take on two cases asking whether lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees are protected by federal employment discrimination laws, as well as two additional cases pertaining to maritime vessel safety and immigration permanent resident policy.
First, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, consolidated with Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, the court will decide whether discrimination “because of sex” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes discrimination based on sexual orientation. Courts of appeals have come to mixed conclusions about these questions.
In Bostock, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision last May that sexual orientation was not included within the meaning of the statute. The Second Circuit on the other hand, in Altitude, held that Title VII does apply based on sexual orientation because such discrimination “is a subset of sex discrimination.”
In R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, the court will decide whether Title VII bars discrimination against transgender people based on either their status as transgender or stereotyping.
A transgender employee was fired from her work at a funeral home for what the funeral home owner believed would violate the home’s dress code and “God’s commands” by allowing her to wear woman’s clothing. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of the transgender employee, represented by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Two more cases were also added to the docket Monday, including CITGO Asphalt Refining Co. v. Frescati Shipping Co., Ltd., to determine whether under federal maritime law a safe-berth clause in a voyage charter contract is a guarantee of a ship’s safety, as the US Courts of Appeals for the Second and Third Circuits have held, or one a duty of due diligence, as the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has held.
The other case is Barton v. Barr, which asks whether a lawfully admitted permanent resident who is not seeking admission to the United States can be “render[ed] … inadmissible” for the purposes of the stop-time rule, when a period of continuous residence ends if the legal alien commits an offense that would make him inadmissible to the country.