Scholars file amici briefs with US Supreme Court in LGBT employment discrimination cases

Williams Institute scholars, joined by other experts who study the LGBT population, filed amici briefs with the US Supreme Court today in three cases that address whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Two of the cases—Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and Altitude Express Inc v. Zarda—address sexual orientation, and the third case, Harris Funeral Homes v. Stephens, addresses gender identity.

The briefs, written by Williams Institute scholar Adam Romero and attorneys from the law firm Sidley Austin, marshal social science and legal research to illustrate LGBT people’s need for legal protections and the devastating effects when LGBT people are subject to employment discrimination. The briefs were joined by 88 scholars of demographics, economics, law, medicine, psychology, political science, public health, public policy, and other disciplines.

“Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity can profoundly negatively impact the financial, emotional and physical well-being of LGBT people,” said Romero, the Arnold D. Kassoy Scholar of Law and Federal Policy Director at the Williams Institute. “Because more than half of the states do not prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, for many LGBT people the Court’s decision will be the difference between having a remedy against discrimination at work or not.”


Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and Altitude Express Inc v. Zarda

  • There are an estimated 1 million lesbian, gay and bisexual workers (ages 16 and older) in the US and half of them—more than 3.5 million LGB people—live in states without express statutory protections against sexual orientation discrimination in employment.
  • A variety of research documents pervasive employment discrimination against LGB workers. For example:
    • According to one recent survey from the Williams Institute, 60% of LGB people reported being fired from or denied a job, and 48% reported being denied a promotion or receiving a negative evaluation, compared to 40% and 32% respectively among heterosexuals.
    • From 2013 to 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state and local agencies received over 8,600 complaints of workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
    • A recent study of employment discrimination charges filed in states with anti-discrimination laws versus those without shows that LGB people face more severe discrimination in the absence of legal protection. In states without anti-discrimination statutes, there were proportionally more allegations of serious discrimination issues, including harassment, discharge and retaliation.
  • Discrimination at work can negatively impact the health and well-being of LGB people. For example, discrimination can exacerbate income inequality and poverty. Poverty rates among LGB people are higher than those of non-LGB people. Children of same-sex couples experience poverty rates twice that of children in different-sex-couple households.
  • Public opinion polling shows the American public and business support protecting LGB people from discrimination, and that many Americans already believe that federal civil rights laws do so.

Harris Funeral Homes v. Stephens

  • Approximately 1 million workers (ages 16 and older) identify as transgender in the US and more than half of them—562,000 people—live in states without express statutory protections against gender identity discrimination in employment.
  • A variety of research documents pervasive employment discrimination against transgender workers. For example:
    • 30% of respondents to the 2015 US Transgender Survey said they had experienced unfair treatment in the workplace in the prior year.
    • 15% of transgender respondents to the USTS reported being unemployed, more than triple the national unemployment rate at the time of the survey. Twice as many transgender respondents live in poverty compared to the national average.
  • Employers support inclusive non-discrimination policies. Nearly all of the top 50 Fortune 500 companies and the top 50 federal government contractors (92%) state that diversity policies and generous benefit packages are good for their business.

Read the briefs


July 3, 2019

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