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Landmark Ruling From The Supreme Court This Week

In its first decision since 2018 involving LGBT rights, the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision on Monday, June 15, 2020, that title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which among other things bans employment discrimination on the basis of sex, also applies to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The ruling folds together two different cases brought by three different plaintiffs, two gay men and one transgender woman. Gerald Bostok of Georgia was fired from his job as a child welfare services coordinator in 2013 after joining a gay softball league. See Bostock v Clayton County Georgia, 590 US (2020).  Donald Zarda was fired from his job as a skydiving instructor in New York in 2010 after making a joke about his sexual orientation to a client. Altitude Express v Donald Zarda, 590 US (2020). And Aimee Stephens, a funeral director in suburban Detroit, was fired after telling her boss that she would come to work presenting as a woman. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v EEOC, 590 US (2020). Of the three plaintiffs, only Bostok is still alive to see the decision[1].

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who wrote the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., used standard methods of textual analysis to reach this result. “By discriminating against homosexuals, the employer intentionally penalizes men for being attracted to men and women for being attracted to women, …. By discriminating against transgender persons, the employer unavoidably discriminates against persons with one sex identified at birth and another today. Any way you slice it, the employer intentionally refuses to hire applicants in part because of the affected individuals’ sex.”

In Gorsuch’s conception, the breadth of the statutory language made this outcome inevitable: “The limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. . . . Only the written word is law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.”

The broad and immediate impact across the country of this ruling will be seen for years to come as judges and law makers alike navigate its intersection with religious freedom and employers rights.

 

[1] Moira Donegan. “The US supreme court has given LGBTQ Americans a rare bit of good news”  theguardian.com, June 16, 2020.

 

June 2020

COVID-19 Laws in Plain English

Realizing that the state of the law is very fluid and rapidly evolving creature, here is a quick look at the federal legislation that is either already in place, or about to be enacted to address the novel coronavirus outbreak in the United States. The President and Congress have put forth several legislative packages attempting to ease the impact of COVID-19 on the health care system and the broader economy.

Read the full article.

March 2020

Estate Planning Alert

The SECURE Act was passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 297 to 120 on December 17, 2019 and by a vote of 71 to 23 by the Senate on December 19, 2019. The Act’s prevailing goal is to encourage employers who may have previously resisted offering tax-advantageous retirement plans, due to their expense and administrative requirements, to increase access to their employees..

Read the full article.

December 2019