SCOTUS Confirms LGBTQ+ Employee Rights

June 25, 2020

Dear UC Berkeley Community, 

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from workplace discrimination, firing, and other adverse employment decisions made on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We celebrate the Bostock decision acknowledging with gratitude the work of the queer and trans activists who have made this decision a reality, especially those pioneers whose contributions were so rightly extolled in the marches for Black Trans Lives over the last few weekends: Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major, Felicia “Flames” Elizondo, and the other trans women of color without whose activism the riots at the Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco and Stonewall Inn in New York would not have happened, nor the civil rights rightly enjoyed by the LGBTQ+ community today on Berkeley's campus and nationwide.

 

This celebration is bittersweet in Pride month, as the news came only three days after the Trump administration rolled back health care protections for LGBTQ+ populations while in the middle of a pandemic. This victory also comes during protests against the ongoing murder of Black people at the hands of law enforcement and an epidemic of the murder of transgender people - 27 in 2019 - most of them transgender Black women. Two of them, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton, were killed just some days ago

 

One further aspect of Bostock warrants a particular note. This decision aligns the interests of transgender people with those of cisgender gay people. This long-overdue equity represents an enormous step forward for trans civil rights at a time when trans people are increasingly targeted by political and cultural forces who have more or less made their peace with gay civil rights. We take this opportunity, then, to celebrate the distinctive contributions of our trans students and colleagues.

 

While the protections affirmed in this Supreme Court decision already existed for employees of UC Berkeley, the nationwide impact of this ruling cannot be understated. This is a resounding affirmation that there is no place for anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace. It empowers LGBTQ+ workers to celebrate their identities in our workplace. It requires all of us to ensure that we are, for example, addressing LGBTQ+ colleagues and students with the respect and dignity afforded everyone. This includes but is not limited to using the lived name and pronoun of each person, creating environments that positively value queer and trans lives and experiences, and confronting mistreatment and inequities wherever we encounter them.

 

In our own context at UC Berkeley, we continue working on creating an equitable and successful environment by championing equity and the rights of all members of our LGBTQ+ community. We encourage you all to take the Gender Recognition Act training course available through the Learning Management System. This new online training on transgender, nonbinary, and intersex awareness is available to all in response to SB179. 

 

We are stronger together than apart, and we take this historic moment to celebrate - not for the first time - the extraordinary vitality of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer community here at Berkeley.

 

Best regards, 

 

Eugene Whitlock, Chief People & Culture Officer
Oscar Dubón, Vice Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion

 
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