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Apple, Google, Facebook and Uber urge Supreme Court to take gay workers’ rights case

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Apple, Google, Facebook and Uber have signed onto an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to weigh in on whether businesses can discriminate employees on the basis of their sexual orientation.

In the brief signed Wednesday, the Silicon Valley giants joined 70 other companies asking the High Court to decide whether federal law bars discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Despite recent progress for the LGBT community in the legal world, culminating in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage across the United States, no specific law from Congress bars sexual orientation-based discrimination.

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After the Obama administration extended existing civil rights laws to cover the LGBT community, the Trump administration under Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed some of the protections.

Pitting themselves against the White House, 76 businesses — which also include Intel, eBay, Lyft and Airbnb — argued that such protections for the LGBT community would be a boon for the American economy.

“There is no truth to the notion that laws forbidding sexual orientation discrimination are unreasonably costly or burdensome for business,” reads the amicus brief. “To the contrary, recognizing that Title VII prohibits sexual orientation discrimination as a form of sex discrimination would strengthen and expand benefits to businesses.”

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The case the businesses want the Supreme Court to examine involves Jameka Evans, a former security guard at a Savannah, Georgia hospital who says she was harassed and forced to quit her job because she is gay.

In March, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta dismissed her claim, saying discrimination based on sexual orientation is not covered by the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s Title VII, which does prohibit sex discrimination.

But a couple of other similar cases tried elsewhere in the United States did conclude discrimination based on sexual orientation was covered under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In April, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled in favor of an Indiana-based adjunct community-college professor, who alleged that she was shut out of full-time positions because she is  lesbian.

“Any discomfort, disapproval, or job decision based on the fact that the complainant—woman or man—dresses differently, speaks differently, or dates or marries a same-sex partner, is a reaction purely and simply based on sex,” wrote Judge Diane Wood who wrote the decision. “That means that it falls within Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination, if it affects employment in one of the specified ways.”

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The clash of interpretations by the circuit courts hurts the American economy and society, argues the amicus brief.

“Businesses have the greatest opportunity for success when they operate under legal certainty,” reads the amicus brief. “Excluding sexual orientation from Title VII’s sex discrimination protections undermines businesses’ efforts to recruit, organize, and retain talent.”

While companies and individual states have laws barring sexual orientation-based discrimination, the companies argued it was not sufficient and needed a national precedent.

It is unclear if the Supreme Court will take Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital.

Photo: The U.S. Supreme Court building is seen in this March 31, 2012 file photo on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

Tags: Apple, facebook, gay marriage, Google, supreme court, Uber

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