A group of 76 U.S. businesses and two professional sports teams have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to rule whether federal law bans workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Some of the country’s best-known brands were among those signing on, including Apple, American Airlines, Microsoft, Facebook, Morgan Stanley, CBS, Levi Strauss, Ben & Jerry’s and Starbucks Coffee, as well as the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team and Miami Heat basketball team.
In the friend-of-the court brief submitted Tuesday, the companies urged the court to consider the case of Jameka Evans, a female security guard at a Georgia hospital who quit her job after being harassed and persecuted because she is gay.
A federal appeals court threw out Evans’ suit against the hospital, Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, in March, thereby upholding lower court rulings that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination on the basis of gender, but not sexual orientation.
A total of 22 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, include sexual orientation in their workplace protections for both the public and private sector. Twenty states plus DC and Puerto Rico include gender identity.
However, there is no federal law offering such protections. Despite repeated attempts since 1994, Congress has failed to pass the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibition workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The petition urges the court to consider the Evans case, saying, ‘Everyone benefits when everyone is protected.’
‘Businesses’ first-hand experiences, supported by extensive social-science research, confirm the significant costs for employers and employees when sexual orientation discrimination is not forbidden by a uniform law, even where other policies exist against such discrimination,’ the brief reads.
Lambda Legal, which is representing Evans, joined with Human Rights (HRC), Freedom For All Americans and Out Leadership in organizing the amicus brief.
‘These companies are sending a powerful message to LGBTQ workers and their families that America’s leading businesses believe in equality,’ said HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow in a press release.
‘Across the country, corporate leaders are speaking out because they know attacking LGBTQ employees isn’t just shameful — it also puts the families of their employees and customers at risk.’
The court is expected to decide by the end of the year whether it will take Evans’ case.