by Sarah McBride •
Today, HRC, Lambda Legal, Out & Equal, Out Leadership, and Freedom for All Americans announced that 206 major corporations have signed a “friend of the court” brief that will be filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in a trio of cases that may determine whether LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination under existing federal civil rights laws – which prohibit sex discrimination in contexts ranging from the employment to housing, health care and education.
The landmark brief has more corporate signers than any previous business brief in an LGBTQ non-discrimination case.
“At this critical moment in the fight for LGBTQ equality, these leading businesses are sending a clear message to the Supreme Court that LGBTQ people should, like their fellow Americans, continue to be protected from discrimination,” said Jay Brown, Senior Vice President for Programs, Research and Training for the HRC Foundation. “These employers know first-hand that protecting the LGBTQ community is both good for business and the right thing to do. With so much progress on the line, we are grateful that so many major American companies are standing up for the rights and dignity of their LGBTQ employees, family members and customers.”
“When employees can safely bring their whole selves to the workplace, they do better work and that leads to success,” said Lambda Legal Senior Attorney, Omar Gonzalez-Pagan. “And many of the nation’s top businesses know that. We are thrilled by the unprecedented support from the business community that recognizes how discrimination against LGBT people is bad for business and violates the Civil Rights Act. It sends a powerful message to their employees, customers and other business leaders that they will stand up for dignity and equality for LGBT people.”
“This brief exposes the lie that affirming Civil Rights protections for LGBTQ Americans is somehow anti-business,” said Erin Uritus, CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. “The opposite is true. Equality is good for businesses and employees. And consumers -- who are increasingly savvy and intentional about their spending power -- are demanding equality. I'm inspired by all of the leaders who have joined with us today in submitting this brief. The Civil Rights Act needs to be affirmed in a way that serves and protects all Americans.”
“Today, a multitude of companies representing sectors from all walks of American life have sent the unequivocal message that they believe in dignity and respect for all their employees and customers," said Kasey Suffredini, president of strategy at Freedom for All Americans. "No one who is well-qualified, talented, and hardworking should have to worry that they cannot be their true selves for fear of being fired or denied a job or promotion. That’s why a majority of Americans from all walks of life support these protections."
“We’re thrilled to see so many of our nation’s most innovative and profitable businesses coming together to say that LGBT+ Americans are, and should continue to be, protected from discrimination,” said Todd Sears, Chief Executive Officer, Out Leadership. “As our recently issued State LGBT+ Business Climate Index shows, the laws protecting LGBT+ people from discrimination vary wildly between - and often within - states. This patchwork approach prevents LGBT+ people from participating fully in the economy and from reaching their highest potential, and it’s past time for the Supreme Court to make nondiscrimination protections the law of the land.”
The historic number of companies -- twice as many as previous LGBTQ non-discrimination briefs - represent more than 7 million employees, a wide variety of industries, and more than $5 trillion in revenue. Those signing the brief are:
1010data, 3 Percent Movement, Inc., 98point6 Inc., Accenture, Adobe Inc., AdRoll Group, Advance, Advance Local, Airbnb, Inc., Akamai Technologies, Inc., AllianceBernstein, Amalgamated Bank, Amazon.com, Inc., American Airlines, American City Business Journals, American Express, American International Group, Inc., Amyris, Inc., ANGI Homeservices Inc., Apple, Aramark, Asana, Inc., ASCAP - American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, Ascena Retail Group, Inc., AT&T Services, Inc., Atlassian, AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company, Bank of America, BASF Corporation, Bayer US LLC, Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Inc., Best Buy Co., Inc., Betterment, BlackRock, Inc., Bloomberg L.P., BNP Paribas USA, Inc., BNY Mellon, Boehringer Ingelheim USA, Boston Scientific Corporation, Broadcast Music, Inc., Brown-Forman Corporation, Brownstein Group, Caldwell Partners Executive Search, Caven Enterprises, CBS Corporation, Celo Labs Inc., Chobani Global Holdings, LLC, Chubb, Cigna, Cisco Systems, Inc., Citigroup Inc., Citrix, Clockwork, CNO Financial Group, Comcast NBCUniversal, Condé Nast, Corning Incorporated, COTA, Inc., Couchbase, Inc., Cox Enterprises, Inc., CSAA Insurance Group, Cummins Inc., CVS Health, Danaher Corporation, Danone North America, PBC, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, Diageo North America, Inc., Domino's, DoorDash, Inc., Dow, Inc., Dropbox, Inc., DTCC, Eastern Bank, eBay Inc., Edelman, Electric Imp, Inc., Ernst & Young LLP, Etsy, Inc., Evolent Health LLC, Exelon Corporation, Expedia Group, Facebook, Inc., Fastly, Inc., Genentech, Inc., General Assembly, General Motors, Gilead Sciences, Glassdoor, Inc., GlaxoSmithKline LLC, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Google LLC, Grant Thornton LLP, Greenhouse Software, Inc., GSBA, Gucci, Gusto, HERE Technologies, Hilton, HP Inc., HSBC Bank USA, N.A., IAC/InterActiveCorp, IBM Corporation, ICM Partners, IHS Markit, IKEA North America Services, LLC, Indiegogo, Inc., Ingersoll Rand, Ingram Micro Inc., Insala, LLC, International LGBTQ+ Travel Association, Intuit Inc., Invesco, Ltd., John Hancock, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Kering Americas, Inc., Kickstarter, PBC, KIND Healthy Snacks, Levi Strauss & Co., Linden Research, Inc. d/b/a Linden Lab, LinkedIn Corporation, Lord Abbett, Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, Lyft, Inc., Macy's, Inc., Mallinckrodt plc, Mapbox, Marriott International, Inc., Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., MassMutual, Mastercard International Incorporated, Match Group, Inc., MGM Resorts International, Michelin North America, Inc., Microsoft Corporation, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Moody's Corporation, Morgan Stanley, Mozilla Corporation, New York Life, NIKE, Inc., Nokia of America Corporation, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Nuance Communications, Inc., Ogilvy, PayPal, Inc., Peloton, Pfizer Inc., Pinterest, Inc., Pivotal, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Principal, Prudential Financial, Inc., Publicis Groupe, Pure Storage Inc., Quantcast Corp., Replacements, Ltd., Rockwell Automation, Inc., Royal Bank of Canada, Rowdies Soccer LLC d/b/a Tampa Bay Rowdies, Runtime Collective Limited (d/b/a Brandwatch), S&P Global Inc., salesforce.com, inc., San Francisco Giants, Southwest Airlines Co., Starbucks Corporation, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Sun, Life U.S., Sunrun Inc., T-Mobile USA, Inc., T. Rowe Price, Takeda Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., Tampa Bay Rays, Tapestry, Inc.,, Tech Data Corporation, The Coca-Cola Company, The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., The Hartford, The Procter & Gamble Co., The Walt Disney Company, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., Thumbtack, Inc., TNTP, Inc., TPG Global, Trillium Asset Management LLC, Turnitin, Turo Inc., Uber Technologies, Inc., Ultimate Software, Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical Inc., Under Armour, Inc., Univision Communications Inc., User Testing, Inc., Viacom Inc., ViiV Healthcare Company, Vimeo, Inc., WarnerMedia LLC, Wells Fargo & Company, Williams-Sonoma, Inc., Workday, Inc., Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc., Xerox Corporation, Xylem Inc., YSC Consulting, Zillow Group, Inc., and Zume, Inc.
The brief was authored by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, one of the nation’s prominent law firms. Amici are represented by Quinn Emanuel, Robinson Curley P.C., and Taylor & Cohen LLP. The brief was organized by a coalition of LGBTQ civil rights organizations, including HRC, Lambda Legal, Out Leadership, Out and Equal, and Freedom for All Americans.
In the three cases, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC and Aimee Stephens and Bostock v. Clayton County, consolidated with Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether anti-LGBTQ discrimination is a form of sex discrimination that violates federal law. The Supreme Court is set to hear the cases during on October 8, 2019.
In the brief, the more than 200 companies argue that:
LGBTQ non-discrimination and inclusion are good for business and the economy.
Top American businesses are comfortable with courts continuing to hold that federal law provides protections to LGBTQ employees.
Non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ employees help improve operations for businesses.
There would be significant costs for employers and employees if sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination were not forbidden by law.
Leading American businesses have long expressed a commitment to LGBTQ diversity and inclusion in their workforces as evidenced by inclusive policies, practices and benefits. Businesses realize being inclusive is not only the right thing to do -- it just makes good business sense as well. Companies that are inclusive of LGBTQ people and employees with LGBTQ family members are able to attract and retain the best and brightest across a wide spectrum of diversity, reap the benefits from increased engagement and productivity, and actively participate in the vibrant LGBTQ consumer marketplace.
Having built inclusive workplaces for their LGBTQ employees and LGBTQ dependents of employees, companies have a vested interest in the legal landscape in which those employees and their dependents live, work or go to school.
Several federal courts have previously held that discrimination against LGBTQ people violates laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The Trump-Pence administration, however, has threatened to redefine federal sex discrimination through regulations attempting to erase protections for transgender people, and has asked the Supreme Court to reverse course and bar LGBTQ people from receiving federal nondiscrimination protections.
In R.G. & G.R. HARRIS FUNERAL HOMES v. EEOC and AIMEE STEPHENS, Aimee Stephens worked as a funeral director at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. When she informed the funeral home’s owner that she is transgender and planned to come to work as the woman she is, the business owner fired her, saying it would be "unacceptable" for her to appear and behave as a woman. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuitruled in March 2018 that when the funeral home fired her for being transgender and departing from sex stereotypes, it violated Title VII, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment.
In ALTITUDE EXPRESS INC. v. ZARDA, Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, was fired from his job because of his sexual orientation. A federal trial court rejected his discrimination claim, saying that the Civil Rights Act does not protect him from losing his job for being a gay man. In February 2018, U.S. Court of Appeals for Second Circuit, sitting altogether as a full bench, ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of discrimination based on sex that is prohibited under Title VII. The court recognized that when a lesbian, gay, or bisexual person is treated differently because of discomfort or disapproval that they are attracted to people of the same sex, that constitutes discrimination based on sex.
In BOSTOCK v. CLAYTON COUNTY, Gerald Lynn Bostock was fired from his job as a county child welfare services coordinator when his employer learned he is gay. In May 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit refused to reconsider a 1979 decision wrongly excluding sexual orientation discrimination from coverage under Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination, and denied his appeal.
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