Is it legal to be fired for being gay or trans?
The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday that it would hear a set of cases concerning whether federal employee discrimination law protects LGBT workers. The cases include a transgender funeral director in Michigan who successfully challenged her firing and a social worker in Georgia who was not able to convince a court that he was illegally fired for being gay.
The cases are a reminder of the disparities that exist in workplaces around the country, despite statements about the importance of diversity and inclusion. States are split on the issue: Workers can be fired for their sexual orientation or for being transgender in 26 states.
In August 2018, Pennsylvania’s Commission on Human Relations, which investigates allegations of workplace discrimination, said it would add sexual orientation and gender identity to its definition of protected groups, though Pennsylvania’s discrimination law does not explicitly refer to them. Before that, workers could only file complaints with the commission if they lived in a municipality that barred LGBT discrimination. As of 2018, 52 of the more than 2,500 Pennsylvania municipalities, including Philadelphia, have interpreted laws as protecting LGBT workers.
There are loopholes, however: The City of Philadelphia exempts religious institutions (though organizations receiving city money must follow the city’s employee discrimination laws). That issue gained prominence last year when the American Bible Society, a nonprofit in Old City, told its employees that they had to agree to a code of conduct including abstaining from sex before marriage, which it defined as between a man and a woman. About 20 percent of the more than 200 employees left after the new requirement was announced though not all of them cited the code of conduct as their reason for leaving.
New Jersey also bars LGBT discrimination.