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USA: Supreme Court will decide whether U.S law should prohibit workplace discrimination on sexual orientation or gender identity

Author: Lawrence Hurley and Will Dunham, Devdiscourse News (USA), Published on: 24 April 2019

"U.S. Supreme Court to decide if LGBT workers protected under sex discrimination law", 22 Apr 2019

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether U.S. law banning workplace discrimination on the basis of sex protects gay and transgender workers, as the conservative-majority court waded into a fierce dispute involving a divisive social issue. At issue in the high-profile legal fight is whether gay and transgender people are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex as well as race, color, national origin and religion.

 The court will take up two cases concerning gay people who have said they were fired due to their sexual orientation, one involving a New York skydiving instructor named Donald Zarda and another brought by a former county child welfare services coordinator from Georgia named Gerald Bostock. The court also will take up a Detroit funeral home's bid to reverse a ruling that it violated federal law by firing a transgender funeral director named Aimee Stephens after Stephens revealed plans to transition from male to female.

The court will hear oral arguments and issue a ruling in its next term, which starts in October. President Donald Trump's administration has argued that Title VII does not cover sexual orientation or gender identity. The Republican president's administration reversed the approach taken under Democratic former President Barack Obama by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal laws banning workplace discrimination.

Harris Funeral Homes, the employer in the transgender case, is owned by Thomas Rost, who identifies himself as a devout Christian. The company has a strict sex-specific dress code that requires male employees to wear suits and women to wear dresses or skirts. Stephens, formerly known as Anthony Stephens, joined the company in October 2007. Stephens was fired when he announced plans to transition from male to female.

Rost said that "this is not going to work out," according to court papers. Stephens subsequently turned to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued on Stephens' behalf in 2014. The company is represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal group. The Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2018 ruled against the company...

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