I received a bunch of reader emails yesterday with requests for future blog posts.
One reader requested a follow-up to yesterday’s post about service animals and the ADA, asking that I address what happens when a service animal causes allergy issues for co-workers. Another reader sought input on heated political discussions at work as a gateway to a real hostile work environment. Both good ideas; I’ll get to them.
Today, however, I want to talk about Gavin Grimm and yesterday’s announcement from the U.S. Supreme Court to send his transgender rights case back to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for further consideration in light of the guidance document issued by the Department of Education and Department of Justice on February 22, 2017.
This student discrimination case could impact your business.
The issue in Gloucester County School Board v. G. G. is rather simple: can a transgender student at a public school use the restroom corresponding to the gender with which the student identifies. In legal nerdspeak, do the protections under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance, extend to gender identity.
While Gavin Grimm’s story is interesting, you can read more about it here and here, why should it matter on this employment law blog?
Because there are many parallels between Title IX and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on sex. Indeed, if you head over to the EEOC’s website, you’ll see plenty of references to Gavin Grimm’s case. For example, here’s a fact sheet on transgender bathroom access at work. And over here, the EEOC cites Gavin Grimm’s case as an example of why LGBT discrimination is unlawful under Title VII.
Indeed, Gloucester County School Board v. G. G. could have provided the first glimpse into how the Supreme Court may eventually rule on an LGBT/Title VII decision where the issue is squarely whether Title VII covers discrimination based on sexual orientation.
So, what now?
We’ll have to wait until, maybe, cases like Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College or Christiansen v. Omnicom Group, Inc., each of which will address whether Title VII covers discrimination based on sexual orientation, get decided at the appellate-court level. If either or both cases support the EEOC’s position, then we’ll have a circuit split and a possible avenue to the Supreme Court before the Fourth Circuit sends Gloucester County School Board v. G. G. back.
In the meantime, it’s business as usual and check out some of the tips I’ve shared before.