June 18, 2020

Rainbows behind Supreme Court

On Monday, the US Supreme Court ruled that gay and transgender workers are protected from job discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The 6-3 decision makes it clear that firing an employee because they are gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“We must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear,” Justice Neil M. Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion. “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

The high court’s ruling, issued during Pride Month, an annual event that commemorates the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals, underscores the importance of fairness, equality, diversity and inclusion  in employment decisions.

For HR leaders, here are 5 next steps to consider:

  1. Review policies, practices and training
    Organizations should review and update anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, hiring practices, training and other programs to ensure they reflect protections for LGBTQ employees and applicants.
  2. Train managers on their role
    Managers and supervisors have additional responsibilities to address and prevent incidents of discrimination or harassment against LGBTQ employees, and to respond appropriately to complaints. And managers involved in employment decisions will also benefit from training on how to apply inclusive thinking in recruiting and hiring decisions.
  3. Train on diversity and unconscious bias
    As part of a diversity and inclusion strategy, training can reinforce policies and expectations for inclusive behavior and actions. Diversity training also helps employees recognize and understand the connection between diversity, inclusion, unconscious bias and discrimination toward LGBTQ coworkers.
  4. Promote bystander intervention
    Bystander intervention training is another way to strengthen workplace culture and help stop offensive comments and behavior toward LGBTQ employees. Teaching different tactics on how to safely intervene during or after witnessing inappropriate behavior can enable bystanders to take safe action, if they choose, while expressing empathy and support to targets of misconduct.
  5. Encourage allyship
    Allyship also helps create a more inclusive workplace. Anyone can be an ally — it’s about being vocal and visible in supporting LGBTQ coworkers, and other individuals or groups, who feel they have few opportunities to thrive and succeed. By offering empathy, understanding and mentorship, workplace allies can raise awareness and support the ideas and contributions of marginalized and underrepresented groups.

Traliant Insight

This week, the Supreme Court ruled that firing an employee because they are gay or transgender violates Title VII. This landmark decision should prompt organizations to review and update workplace policies, training, hiring practices and other programs to ensure that LGBTQ employees are protected from job discrimination. The ruling, says Johnny C. Taylor, president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, gives HR professionals “clear guidance and a greater opportunity to create a world of work that works for all.”

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