“The little-known story of how unions help secure equal treatment for LGBT workers”

On January 18, 2018, Lieff Cabraser filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National LGBTQ Task Force, and PFLAG in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31 et al. in the United States Supreme Court in support of the ability of public-sector unions to continue to collect “fair-share fees” from government employees as approved in the 1977 Abood case.

As noted in the brief, the amici in the case “are organizations committed to eliminating discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in the workplace. The question presented is critical to that goal.”

The brief explains that while the United States has made significant strides toward LGBT equality, the undeniable reality remains that many LGBT individuals face significant hurdles and high rates of discrimination in the workplace. Such discrimination “is unfair, interferes with LGBT individuals’ ability to support their families, and imposes significant economic costs on public employers and taxpayers.” Countenancing systematic subordination on the basis of sexual orientation is also an affront to the equal dignity and personhood of LGBT individuals. Yet that discrimination — for far too long regarded as not wrong at all — is difficult to combat, especially for individual employees who depend on their jobs and fear retaliation for speaking up, and employees who are unable to take on the high cost of litigation for the uncertain prospect of relief in court.

For many LGBT workers, unions have opened the door to equal treatment and made justice possible when other avenues to relief have been too risky or prohibitively expensive. Through the collective bargaining process, unions secure robust antidiscrimination protections and effective grievance mechanisms for LGBT workers. These valuable protections deter discrimination in a number of important and measureable ways, and provide a speedy remedy at no cost to the individual employee when it occurs. By bargaining for LGBT workers, unions serve the primary purpose of federal antidiscrimination law: eliminating discrimination and avoiding harm through the adoption of
antidiscrimination policies.

The fair-share fees that the Supreme Court approved in 1977 in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education provide public-sector unions with the resources needed to bargain for these and other vital protections. Overturning Abood would hamper union efforts to prevent and redress workplace discrimination against LGBT individuals and other workers, as well as efforts to promote open and accepting workplaces for all employees, and risk imposing associated costs on public-sector employers and taxpayers.

About the Amici Parties in the Case

The Human Rights Campaign (“HRC”) is the largest national LGBT political organization. HRC envisions an America where LGBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest, and safe at home, at work, and in the community. Among those basic rights is freedom from discrimination and access to equal opportunity.

The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. is the nation’s oldest and largest legal organization whose mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of LGBT people and those living with HIV through impact litigation, education, and policy.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights (“NCLR”) is a national non-profit legal organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the civil rights of LGBT people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. Since its founding in 1977, NCLR has played a leading role in securing fair and equal treatment for LGBT people and their families. NCLR has a particular interest in promoting equal opportunity for LGBT people in the workplace and represents LGBT people in employment and other cases in courts throughout the country.

The National LGBTQ Task Force has worked since 1973 to build power, take action, and create change to achieve freedom and justice for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (“LGBTQ”) people and their families. The Task Force works toward a society that values and respects the diversity of human expression and identity and achieves equity for all. LGBTQ laborers routinely face discrimination and mistreatment because of their identity in workplaces, making union membership and representation an integral bulwark protecting the LGBTQ community’s employment rights.

PFLAG National, founded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, is the nation’s largest organization uniting families, allies, and LGBTQ people. Now entering its 45th year of providing support, education, and advocacy, PFLAG has nearly 400 chapters and 200,000 supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities and rural areas across the United States, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the largest non-stateside U.S. military installation and base in the world, located in Germany.

Read a copy of the full brief here.

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