In the US, no federal law safeguards people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Supreme Court heard three cases on October 8, 2019 that ask the question: “Is it legal to fire employees because of their sexual orientation or gender identity?” State laws protecting LGBTQ+ workers from job discrimination look vastly different across the country.
The map shows the current landscape for state laws. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (dark purple). Only Wisconsin (purple) forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation. Seven states–Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia–prohibit discrimination against government employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity (violet). On the other hand, Alaska, Arizona, Missouri, and North Carolina only bar discrimination against public employees based on sexual orientation (lavender). Seventeen states have no protections.
How will the outcome of the Supreme Court cases determine employment protections for Americans? The court could decide that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act covers sexual and gender minority employees. This would allow them to gain protections that other workers obtained in 1964 when discrimination based on national origin, race, religion, and sex were outlawed. If the Supreme Court decides that LGBTQ+ people are not protected by Title VII, workers who are fired and their families may lose critical benefits like health insurance or may face increasingly hostile work environments.
The Court’s decision is expected sometime next year and could have implications beyond the workplace.
Databyte via State Maps of Laws & Policies: Employment, The Human Rights Campaign, 2019.