Katie Eyer, Professor at Rutgers Law School, Camden, “we spend so much of our lives at our jobs, so it is really deeply meaning for people to show up and do their job without fear of harassment or discrimination and this ruling really makes that a possibility.” By vote, 6 -3, the supreme court ruled that gay, lesbian, and transgender employees cannot be fired or turned down for a job based on their sexual orientation, under a provision in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Eyer continues, “The Supreme Court in the opinion reversed those federal court decision, and said our federal law that prohibits discrimination because of sex extends to LGBTQ workers because you simply can’t discriminate against LGBTQ workers without also discriminating on the basis of sex.”
Eyer has litigated and won precedent-setting court cases protecting the legal rights of LGBT and disabled employees. “Clients who had hot lead thrown at them on a daily basis at a manufacturing workplace. I had clients who were head-butted in the workplace when they tried to object to their discriminatory treatment.”
Governor Murphy remarked about the ruling, “thankfully, what is now the law of the land has already been the law in New Jersey, and we will continue to stand by our LGBTQ+ family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues in all that we do.”
While New Jersey has some of the strongest protections in the country for the estimated 350,000 LGBTQ residents, those protections aren’t guaranteed out of state, something Rutgers University professor Oscar Holmes, says he’s experienced first-hand. “It got back to me one of the Universities in Texas they didn’t move me forward for consideration because they found out I was a gay man.”
The ruling even garnered the support of two conservative judges, but Holmes says he was most disappointed by Justice Clarence Thomas, the only African American Supreme Court Justice on the bench. “I think many of us, black people, don’t have high expectation of him that he would do the right thing.”
Eyer says while the ruling is a victory, she does admit discrimination cases will become increasingly difficult to prove. And she says workers will need to watch out for, among other things, retaliation for speaking up about discrimination.