• International Workplace
  • 17 June 2020

US Supreme Court backs protection for LGBT workers

Employers that sack workers for being gay or transgender are breaking US civil rights laws, the Supreme Court has ruled. The country’s federal law already prohibits discrimination based on sex, but the Court has now ruled that the law should include sexual orientation and gender equality, bringing the US law to parity with several others around the world.

Lawyers for the employers in question argued that the authors of the 1964 Civil Rights Act had not intended it to apply to cases involving sexual orientation and gender identity. But Judge Neil Gorsuch said acting against an employee on those grounds necessarily takes sex into account.

"An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex," he wrote.

This is a significant ruling for members of the LGBT community across the US.

In the UK, under the Equality Act 2010, it is against the law to discriminate against someone because of a protected characteristic. Those characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation


Sexual orientation discrimination is when you are treated differently because of your sexual orientation in one of the situations that are covered by the Equality Act.

The treatment could be a one-off action or as a result of a rule or policy based on sexual orientation. It doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful.