Amazon, Apple, Google and other corporate giants back LGBTQ worker protections in upcoming Supreme Court battle

Amazon, Apple, Google and other corporate giants back LGBTQ worker protections in upcoming Supreme Court battle

More than 200 companies are making the business case for LGBTQ workplace protections.


The 206 companies — including heavy hitters like Amazon AMZN, +0.24%  , Apple AAPL, +0.83%  , Facebook FB, +1.13%  , Google GOOG, +0.93% GOOGL, +0.93%   and General Motors GM, -0.47%   — advocated in a legal brief Tuesday for the U.S. Supreme Court to recognize that federal civil rights law protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination.


The “friend of the court” brief, announced by the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, Out & Equal, Out Leadership and Freedom for All Americans, came ahead of the Supreme Court’s scheduled Oct. 8 oral arguments on three employment-discrimination cases involving gay or transgender workers.


The brief’s signatories, who claimed to employ a collective 7 million workers and generate more than $5 trillion in revenue, also included Adobe ADBE, +1.43%  , American Airlines AAL, +1.65%  , Bank of America BAC, -0.34%  , Cigna CI, +1.87%  , Comcast NBCUniversal CMCSA, +1.00%  , Deutsche Bank DB, +2.90%  , Intuit INTU, +1.44%  , JPMorgan Chase JPM, -0.16%  , Microsoft MSFT, +0.64%  , Nike NKE, +1.46%  , Procter & Gamble PG, +2.33%  , Starbucks SBUX, +2.67%   and Uber UBER, +0.52%  .


The companies “support the principle that no one should be passed over for a job, paid less, fired, or subjected to harassment or any other form of discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” they said.


“When workplaces are free from discrimination against LGBT employees, everyone can do their best work, with substantial benefits for both employers and employees,” the companies’ brief read. “Only a uniform federal rule can enable businesses to recruit and retain, and employees to perform, at their highest levels.”


They argued that companies’ voluntarily enacted anti-discrimination policies couldn’t measure up to legal protection, nor could the “patchwork” of laws at the state and local levels. (Twenty-eight states have no laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to the Human Rights Campaign, and 30 states have no laws preventing discrimination based on gender identity.)


The nation’s highest court agreed in April to hear a trio of cases to decide whether workplace-discriminations under the 1964 Civil Rights Act apply to gay and transgender people. Two of the cases involve men who say they were fired for being gay, while the third concerns a transgender woman who says she was fired after coming out to her boss.


The cases come as American opinion on gay issues has changed dramatically over the past four decades, with 93% of respondents to a recent Gallup poll saying that gay people should have equal rights when it comes to job opportunities. But that attitude hasn’t always made its way into the workplace: Nearly half of LGBTQ workers say they’re not out at work, according to a 2018 Human Rights Campaign Foundation report. Meanwhile, research shows that LGBTQ workers face a persistent pay gap with their heterosexual counterparts.


The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission has argued that the Civil Rights Act protects against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; President Trump’s administration, in turn, has argued the opposite.


A Supreme Court ruling that federal anti-discrimination law doesn’t protect LGBTQ workers, the 206 companies said, “would hinder the ability of businesses to compete in all corners of the nation, and would harm the U.S. economy as a whole.”


“At this critical moment in the fight for LGBTQ equality, these leading businesses are sending a clear message to the Supreme Court that LGBTQ people should, like their fellow Americans, continue to be protected from discrimination,” Jay Brown, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s senior vice president for programs, research and training, said in a statement.