Nebraska Experts, Advocates React To LGBTQ+ Workplace Protection Ruling

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June 15, 2020 - 4:51pm

The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday that LGBTQ+ individuals are protected from workplace discrimination under federal law. The 6-3 vote ruled that sexual orientation and gender identity are covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states a person cannot be discriminated against on the basis of sex.

Eric Berger, Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law, said the decision is a very significant ruling for not only LGBTQ+ equality, but for statutory interpretation as well. He said the case could influence how the Supreme Court approaches other statutes in upcoming years.

"It’s also a notable pronouncement given that this is the most conservative Supreme Court this country has had since the mid-1930s, and yet the court still ruled 6 to 3 in favor of gay, bisexual, and transgender workers,” Berger said. He said it is a big deal for the Title VII protections to be expanded.

Local LGBTQ+ advocacy groups call the decision a win but say there is more work to be done at the local level.

Abbi Swatsworth, Executive Director of Out Nebraska, said legislation at the state level to eliminate other aspects of discrimination will push efforts further.

"We can look at things like public accommodations," Swatsworth said. "There are federally funded programs like hospitals, adoption agencies, where it’s still legal to discriminate."

Swatsworth said working to protect black members of the LGBTQ+ community is important to achieving equality, especially right now.

One of the state’s largest employers, Union Pacific, considers the ruling a compliment to practices it already embraced. Chief Human Resource Officer Beth Whited said they created a support network for LGBTQ+ employees eight years ago.

"I want to believe that our employees knew that we had their back all along and that it wasn't going to be an issue at Union Pacific," Whited said. "But I think if you're part of a community that sometimes feels like you're getting discriminated against, everything that continues to protect your rights makes you feel better no matter where you are. So, I hope they knew that no matter what the Supreme Court said we still believe it was important to protect their rights." 

Just recently, Union Pacific began training for co-workers of those undergoing a gender transition.

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