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Key Employment Law Decisions in 2020 Impact Discrimination Cases

Jan. 12, 2021

Employment disputes in Atlanta and throughout Georgia can present challenges to employers and employees alike. While the parties will inevitably be on opposite sides when there is a disagreement or allegations of wrongdoing, they must be aware of legal decisions that impact the workplace and how employment claims are handled.

In certain situations with allegations of discrimination, harassment or wage violation, it can be negotiated and settled without an extended and acrimonious battle. Others cannot be settled and must go to court. Being legally protected is imperative regardless of the perspective. Three cases were decided in 2020 by the Supreme Court of the United States. Employers and employees should understand them.

Supreme Court Decisions Alter the Employment Law Landscape

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was interpreted to extend to protecting LGBT people. People who are gay and transgender sought to clarify these rules and prevent people who are in the LGBT community from being discriminated against. The Court decided by a 6-3 margin that a person’s sex was close to their gender identity and sexual orientation. With that, the 1964 law protected workers from discrimination.

Discriminating due to age and religion were also clarified in a Supreme Court decision. Federal employees who claim to have been discriminated against due to their age differ from those in the private sector when they assert they have been subjected to age discrimination in that they do not need to show that discrimination was the only reason they were denied promotion or were terminated.

Federal agencies’ decisions cannot have any form of bias – this is separate from private sector employers not discriminating due to a worker’s age. For religious schools, it was determined that decisions to hire or fire teachers is unchallengeable based on Title VII as the employer’s decision-making process cannot be intervened with unless their First Amendment rights were subverted.

Regarding salary, pay history was addressed as there is a growing prohibition across the nation against employers asking employees about their salary history. Georgia is one state where it is now banned. Questioning prospective employees about their salary history is now illegal and cannot be used to defend cases in which employees complain about not receiving equal pay.

New Laws Clarify Discrimination, but Claims Will Still Be Made and Defended Against

No matter how the Supreme Court decides on cases, there is always a gray area with allegations of workplace wrongdoing. This can be analyzed from the viewpoint of the employer and employee. If an employer believes there was a justifiable reason for an employment decision and the employee claims that it violated the laws against discrimination or regarding pay, it should understand how to craft a defense against a legal filing.

On the other side of the coin, employees who believe they have been subjected to illegal acts on the job or were discriminated against should know their rights. Consulting with a legal firm that understands discrimination, wages and other areas of employment law can be helpful in settling the case or moving forward in court to seek justice.