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Major companies urge Supreme Court to act on LGBT rights

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits most employers in Florida and around the country from discriminating against workers based on their race, religion, gender, or national origin, but the landmark 1964 bill makes no mention of gender identity or sexual orientation. During the Obama administration, the Department of Justice was committed to extending these protections to gay and transgender workers, but recent developments suggest that President Trump has abandoned these plans.

Three cases dealing with this issue are scheduled to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 8, and many of America's most prominent employers have joined together to urge the nation's highest court to extend Title VII protections to gay and transgender individuals Details about the amicus curiae brief submitted by companies including Microsoft, IBM, Xerox and Nike were released on July 2 by a coalition of advocacy groups representing the LGBT community.

The brief states that a federal rule on the issue is needed because a patchwork of state laws, district court decisions and corporate anti-discrimination polices does not do enough to protect vulnerable workers. The justices will consider the brief before hearing arguments in cases involving two workers who claim that the lost their jobs because they are gay and one worker who says she was fired for being transgender. The justices could also be swayed by recent district and appeals court decisions in New York, Ohio and Illinois that extended Title VII protections.

Attorneys with employment law experience could advise workers who have faced discrimination or harassment due to their gender identity or sexual orientation to keep detailed records of their experiences. This is because employers are rarely willing admit to bigotry and usually use some sort of workplace misconduct to excuse taking adverse action. In addition to adding weight to court arguments, this kind of evidence could be used to encourage employers to avoid potential embarrassment by settling these types of cases at the negotiating table.

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