On June 15th, 2020 the Supreme Court released its monumental opinion to uphold LGBTQ labor rights. In a 6-3 decision, the Justices upheld that discrimination on sexual orientation is illegal through Title XII of the Civil Rights Amendment of 1964, as it is discrimination on the “basis of sex”. This decision is a particularly satisfying win for the North Carolina LGBTQ community. North Carolina is among the minority of states that does not have a state law prohibiting any form of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. That means that if your employer fired you in North Carolina on the basis of your sexual orientation or gender identity, you had no legal remedy. While other states in recent years have provided protections to the LGBTQ community, North Carolina was not one of them. With this stunning Supreme Court decision, protections extend to all LGBTQ persons in all 50 states.
Laura Noble takes a few minutes to discuss what this means for North Carolina with WRAL.
Transcript: WRAL News, June 15
Welcome back. At the top of the newscast, we told you about the decision from the Supreme Court decision that protects LGBTQ people from job discrimination and joining us right now via Zoom is employment attorney, Laura Noble. Laura, thank you so much for joining us this afternoon.
Laura: You’re welcome, thank you for having me.
Tell us what type of precedent this sets moving forward.
Laura: Well, this is a major civil rights decision today. For the first time, the Supreme Court has decided that it is the law of the land that employers cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
And this is a landmark ruling, and we’re seeing a lot of reaction. We heard from Ellen DeGeneres on Twitter, so many people reacting. What are you hearing?
Laura: Well, for the LGBTQ community in North Carolina in particular, this is a major development, because North Carolina, unlike other states, doesn’t have its own antidiscrimination law. So, folks in that community could only go to federal law, and the federal law wasn’t clear about whether it provided them the same protections. Now it’s crystal clear that you cannot fire someone or fail to hire them or not promote them simply on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
And we know that this was, in fact, a split decision. What did we kind of see from the Justices with that?
Laura: So, very interesting that Justice Gorsuch was the Justice who wrote the majority opinion. Obviously, he went through a very contentious appointment process and was supposed to be a more conservative member of the Supreme Court, so it is very interesting that he wrote the opinion. But when you look at it, it really – interpreting the statute, he is interpreting the language “because of sex,” meaning sexual orientation or gender identity, so that’s not so different from a conservative principle.
And really what we’re talking about is workplace bias at this point. As an attorney, how often do you see cases like this?
Laura: Quite often. And it’s been very disheartening to tell these potential clients that they’re going to have an uphill battle to fight because the law has not been clear on the federal level, and because we have no state law protections. Now ideally, Congress would step in, and our legislature would step in and write one very clear, updated, you know, appropriate for 2020 statute that didn’t leave anything up in the air, make it unambiguous that this kind of discrimination is not tolerated.
Attorney Laura Noble, thank you so much for joining us this afternoon.
Laura: My pleasure, thank you.