More than 200 companies urged the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday to rule that federal civil rights laws ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The friend-of-the-court brief was filed Tuesday by several LGBT rights groups ahead of oral testimony Oct. 8 in three cases involving workplace discrimination and persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
In the brief, the signatories — which include T-Mobile, Starbucks, Nike and the Walt Disney Company — argue that excluding protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 based on sexual orientation or gender identity “would have wide-ranging, negative consequences for businesses, their employees and the U.S. economy.”
The companies said their position is based on firsthand experience, backed by social science and economic research that shows such discrimination comes at “significant” cost to employers. By excluding sexual orientation and gender identity from Title VII, the brief says, companies that employ internal rules to create inclusive work spaces are hindered, as “such policies are not a substitute for the force of law.”
“The U.S. economy is strengthened when all employees are protected from discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” the brief said. “The failure to recognize that Title VII protects LGBT workers would hinder the ability of business to compete in all corners of the nation, and would harm the U.S. economy as a whole.”
The companies argue protections create a more diverse workforce, which is a key factor in businesses’ ability to compete globally, as including diverse viewpoints fosters creativity and innovation.
“By any measure, the LGBT segment of the U.S. workforce represents a significant number of both public- and private-sector employees,” the companies said. “Businesses draw on and benefit from the contributions of LGBT workers at all levels and all industries.”
Not having these protections creates inconsistency and uncertainty, which “subjects LGBT employees to unnecessary anxiety and impedes productivity, harming workers and business,” the brief said.
The businesses in the brief employ more than 7 million workers and account for $5 trillion in revenue.
The high court ended its session last week and will return in October.