According to Reuters, in the first known case of its kind, a Detroit man was wrongfully arrested after facial recognition technology provided a positive match. Robert Williams spent more than a full day in jail after the photo on his driver’s license was erroneously matched – via facial recognition software – to someone who’d been caught shoplifting on a surveillance video. This is the United States’ first known wrongful arrest based on facial recognition technology, which is becoming an increasingly popular investigatory tool for police departments across the nation.Read More
In the shadows of all that is going on in America today, a landmark decision was made by the country’s highest Court in Bostock v. Clayton County. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin illegal. Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of the United States was tasked with ruling on the scope of Title VII and whether its protections extended to employees who are homosexual or transgender, and SCOTUS determined that they did.
The Basis for the Court’s Ruling in Favor of Title VII Homosexual and Transgender Protections
In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court sent a strong message that discrimination against homosexual and transgender employees in the workplace constitutes sex and/or gender discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch crafted the majority opinion for the Court, and Justices Alito, Thomas, and Kavanaugh dissented. Among the votes in favor of this ruling were those of conservative Justice Gorsuch and Justice John G. Roberts Jr. This surprising ruling is a watershed decision for all LGBTQ rights.
During oral arguments, Gorsuch expressed that the words “because of sex” favored the plaintiff’s interpretation of the law, and that discrimination based on LGBTQ status inherently involved an employee’s sex or gender. The June 15, 2020, ruling arose out of three separate cases from the Eleventh, Sixth, and Second U.S. Courts of Appeals. Each of these Courts had cases involving an employee who was fired after their employer learned that they were homosexual or transgender. In all cases, the employee had been employed for quite some time, and there appeared to be no other reason for their termination. The Court determined that in these situations, discrimination as it relates to an employee being homosexual or transgender established discrimination based on “sex” that is protected under Title VII.
Without examining the statute’s legislative history, the Supreme Court determined that under Title VII makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee because they are transgender or homosexual. Employers who terminate or otherwise take adverse action against an employee because they are homosexual or transgender, and would not have done so if the employee was a member of the opposite sex, are now in violation of the law.
The dissenters expressed that the other Justices were modifying the law, not interpreting it. Justice Kavanaugh accused the majority opinion of rewriting history. Justice Alito voiced concern that the effects of this decision will be difficult to predict and extensive. He also said his colleagues did not consider how their ruling would affect housing, religious employers, or sports. Some states, such as Pennsylvania, say this ruling provides a more persuasive argument to provide advocacy, agency, and protection under the law for those who are faced with discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
Examples of Title VII Violations
As supporting examples, the Court described the following situations:
An employer has two employees that are both attracted to males. In all other ways, the employees are the same, but one is a man, and one is a woman. The employer decides to fire the male because of his attraction to men but not the woman, even though she is also attracted to men. This employer is accepting of a trait in one employee and not an identical trait in the other employee of the opposite sex.
If an employer fires a transgender employee who identified as a male at birth but now identifies with the female gender, they are also discriminating against the fired employee if the following conditions exist:
- An identical employee was retained that identified as female at birth
- The employer intentionally fired the employee who identified as a male at birth
The employee who was fired was discriminated against for having the same traits or characteristics that the retained employee has. An employment standard must apply across the board when it comes to firing or taking action against employees for whom they are attracted to or what gender they identify with. Otherwise, it is discrimination.
The Supreme Court determined that a statutory violation takes place when an employer would have made a different decision if the employee’s sex or gender were different. Even if the employer cites additional reasons for firing the homosexual or transgender employee, if the plaintiff’s sex was one of them, it is enough to activate the law.
Addressing Arguments Against Title VII Protection for Homosexual and Transgender Employees
Arguments made against the Supreme Court’s ruling included that discrimination on the basis of sex does not occur if all homosexual or transgender men are treated identically to all homosexual and transgender women. Under the same argument, opponents of the ruling highlighted that Title VII deals with discrimination on an individual basis and not a group basis.
To that argument, the decision points out that Title VII’s plain language and previous precedents do not allow an employer to treat men and women identically as a whole gender. Firing all lesbians and transgender employees as well as all gay men under equal standards does not release employers from liability. Instead, it increases their liability.
At the same time, the Court concedes that their decision in this matter probably was not something the Title VII drafters had imagined. However, they believe that the law should not be ignored or overlooked in situations the drafters could not have anticipated. The Court compared this discrimination matter to “an elephant that cannot be hidden in a mouse hole.” Sex discrimination in the workplace is one of the significant pillars in federal civil rights legislation.
The Future of Title VII
The Court was also quick to point out that their ruling in this matter is narrow. Therefore, it does not address or set a precedent for other issues under Title VII that will be addressed in the future. Issues the Court Justices specifically mentioned include:
- The legality of sex-segregated bathrooms or locker rooms
- Whether dress codes based on gender are legal
- The viability of any potential religious liberty defenses under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA)
What Actions Do Employers Need to Take Now?
Employers should take care to update employee handbooks and other employment-related policies and publications. These updates need to include applicable non-discrimination policies that extend to and ensure the protection LGBTQ employees or applicants.
When you’re strategizing for SEO, it’s only natural to consider your competitors and their keywords, but knowing where to begin can be a problem. There are some keyword zingers out there that seem to be surefire bets, but you’re looking for a good fit and a good value. Fortunately, there are some basic guidelines that can help you make the most of your keyword journey.Read More
Typically, the government cannot restrict a person’s liberty without due process of law – which usually means a criminal proceeding ending in a finding of guilt. But in recent days, we’ve heard about cruise ships being kept from coming into port and people placed in quarantine. So what is the legal authority for the federal government to restrict travel and deny citizens the ability to enter the country in light of a public health crisis like the one we are currently facing?
The Commerce Clause
The federal government derives its power to place people in to quarantine and isolation from the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. This clause grants the federal government the power to regulate commerce between the states, and the power has been broadly defined to allow regulation of issues that may affect commerce between the United States. There is little doubt that a pandemic such as the one threatened by the COVID-19 outbreak could affect interstate commerce, making it well within the purview of federal regulation authorized by the commerce clause.
The Public Health Service ACt
Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S. Code § 264) authorizes the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to take measures to prevent the entry and spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States and between states. The authority to carry these functions out has been delegated to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Role of the CDC
Federal regulations authorize the CDC to detain, examine, and release individuals arriving in the country and between states who are suspected of carrying communicable diseases. When the agency is informed about an ill passenger or crew member on an airplane or a ship, it may detain individuals to determine whether the illness was caused by a communicable disease and take further action if it is deemed necessary.
States Authority to Issue Public Health Orders
States have the authority to protect public safety through their police power and have laws in place that authorize them to take steps to control the spread of disease through isolation and quarantine.
In Practice, Public Health Actions are a Joint Effort
In many cases, public health orders involving efforts to stop the spread of communicable diseases in the United States are a joint effort that involve federal and state efforts. Often, public health authorities work with local law enforcement to enforce public health orders.
Need Legal Content? Call Us Today
At Lexicon Legal Content, we’re committed to creating legal content that will connect with your potential clients and explain complicated legal issues in a straightforward way. To learn more about our services, call us today or contact us online.
Now that we’ve rocketed into the new decade, it’s clear that local results are becoming more and more important to Google, which is, of course, good for businesses like small to mid-size law firms. As with all things Google, it’s important to learn the ropes and to anticipate how best to participate. Looking into our crystal ball, we’ve curated some of the most interesting and relevant expert predictions for local search trends in 2020, and we’re happy to share.Read More
A law firm is, first and foremost, a business, and growing your business is the name of the game. While you’ve naturally put time and effort into marketing, you may not have thought about writing an e-book on the topic of your legal expertise. When a potential client is looking for legal representation, your book could be the deciding factor in securing his or her business. After all, you wrote the book on the subject. If you’re interested in highlighting your legal prowess while growing your firm, the legal content marketing experts at Lexicon Legal Content are here to help you imagine, flesh out, and author a book that wows.Read More
Driving while under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs is an extremely dangerous activity in Minneapolis and elsewhere. DUIs put everyone on the road at risk, and a motor vehicle collision that is caused by a drunk driver can lead to serious personal injuries (and sometimes death) for the individuals who are involved in the collision.
Because of the serious risks associated with driving under the influence, the law imposes harsh penalties against individuals who are ultimately convicted of this offense. In some instances, the potential penalties can include prison time – especially in DUI cases that involve repeat offenders.
Sometimes, Figuring Out What to Write about is the Hardest Part of Blogging
The benefits of blogging for law firms and lawyers are indisputable. So, now that you’ve set up your site and are ready to go, what are you actually supposed to be writing about? As a practicing attorney, most of your written communication is likely directed at other attorneys and judges, and this is exactly the style of writing that you should avoid when blogging. Remember, you are blogging in an effort to connect with your potential clients, and (perhaps just as importantly) so that your site is noticed by Google and other search engines. For this reason, content that looks like a legal brief or law review article is NOT what you should be posting.
For many people, finding blog topics is harder than putting pen to paper. Here are 40 ideas to get you started generating content for your law firm’s blogRead More
2019 is the year to get serious about your legal content marketing. Content is the foundation of your online presence, and in our hyper-connected world, content that connects you with your potential clients can increase awareness and generate new business.
Here are five key legal content marketing trends that you can’t afford to ignore in 2019.