On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a ruling that provided some much needed good news for the LGBTQ+ community.  In the consolidated opinions of  R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, and Bostock v. Clayton County, GA, the Court ruled that employers who discriminate against employees for being transgender or gay violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964.   The decision further confirms former SCOTUS decisions finding that sexual harassment by co-workers who were the same sex (Oncale v. Sundowner, 1998) and basing employment decisions on adherence to gender norms (Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 1989) violate laws against sex discrimination.

For the past 8 years, CrescentCare and the Legal Services department have worked to support, advocate and strategically pursue legal claims challenging discriminatory actions in workplace, housing and healthcare.  The SCOTUS’s decision affirms CrescentCare Legal Services’ interpretation that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people in the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.    This decision is a huge gain in the fight to end discriminatory actions against LGBTQ+ members of our community.

What this victory means for LGBTQ+ people:

  • People can no longer be denied employment, promotions or pay raises based on their LGBTQ+ status.
  • People can no longer be disciplined or terminated because of their LGBTQ+ status.
  • People can no longer be denied any of the benefits of employment, including insurance that provides equal access to healthcare, that non-LGBTQ+ employees enjoy.

“Although the ruling does not specifically address housing, healthcare and places of public accommodation, we believe this opens the door for Congress to ensure the same protections are extended to housing, healthcare, and places of public accommodation, said Attorney Joshua Holmes, CrescentCare Legal Services lead discrimination attorney.

The Battle is Won but the War Wages On:  Section 1557 of the Affordable Cares Act

As we pause to celebrate this victory, recent actions by the current presidential administration rewriting Section 1557 of the Affordable Cares Act reminds us to stay vigilant and about the need to keep fighting.

On June 12, 2020, 3 days before the Bostock decision was handed down, the current presidential administration stripped protections for the transgender community in health care settings. “While the new rule makes it easier for health insurance companies to refuse coverage, transgender people still have the right to and can get medical care,” said Dietz, Lead Patient Navigator of CrescentCare. “Alternative ways to cover the cost of medical care must be explored by transgender patients and providers. We are committed to creating alternative ways to cover the cost of medical care for our patients of transgender experience”

The rule also sends a message to health care providers that they can now deny care to LGBTQ+ people.  For transgender people who face increased violence and largely live in poverty without resources like health insurance to cover the cost of medical care, it creates more barriers to care and further marginalizes the community.

Implications of Bostock and New Section 1557 Rule

The issue of free exercise of religion was not an issue before the Supreme Court in Bostock.  But taking note of the complexity and importance of the issue, the Court’s decision notes that “the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 might supersede Title VII’s commands in appropriate cases” and leaves open the issue of how Bostock applies in future cases involving religious freedom arguments. (Bostock p. 32)

“As a physician, I am grateful for the long-overdue workplace protections for LGBTQ+ individuals which the Bostock decision provides,” said Dr. Nicholas Van Sickels, Chief Medical Officer of CrescentCare. “However, I am saddened by the current administration’s decision to revoke healthcare protections for the transgender and gender non-conforming community. This decision will hurt some of the most vulnerable communities in our nation. We are committed, as an agency, to fighting these injustices, and to providing the highest level of care to communities affected by harmful healthcare policies.”

CrescentCare Legal Services remains committed to advocating for the rights of LGBTQ+ people and other vulnerable populations.  “We will not be silent,” said Attorney Ranie Thompson, Director of CrescentCare Legal Services.  “We will continue to strategize and work to eradicate discrimination.  The disparities of health care in the black community and other vulnerable populations highlighted by the COVID19 pandemic, violence against black transgender people, police brutality and so many other injustices are visible and can no longer be ignored.”

If you are discriminated against because you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, follow the suggestions below and seek legal help.

  1. Write down what happened in as much detail as possible.
  2. Contact your case manager for a referral to CrescentCare Legal Services. or
  3. Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to file a complaint. or
  4. Contact a private attorney for assistance.