Attorney General Tong joins report in support of LGBTQ+ workers
Brief filed in support of teacher at North Carolina Catholic high school canceled after announcing plans to marry same-sex partner
(Hartford, CT) — Attorney General William Tong today joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general to file a brief in support of a substitute teacher at a North Carolina Catholic high school who was fired after announcing plans to marry with your same-sex partner. , arguing that the First Amendment does not give an employer the right to unlawfully discriminate against an employee because of her sex.
“Employees have the right to work without discrimination, including the right to marry who they love. The First Amendment is not a license for employers to discriminate. The North Carolina district court was right on this, and the extreme and expansive theories of the defendants here must be rejected.” said Attorney General Tong.
The brief, filed Wednesday with the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Billard v. Charlotte Catholic High School et al., specifically argues that First Amendment protection for freedom of expressive association does not apply to the employer-employee relationship at issue. in the case, and therefore does not give the school the right to fire the teacher in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The brief supports a North Carolina federal district court ruling in favor of the teacher’s contention that the school violated Title VII by discriminating on the basis of sex.
According to the report, accepting the expansive expressive association theory put forth by the school would seriously undermine the ability of states to ensure that employment opportunities remain open to all. The brief argues that “if any employer could invoke an ‘expressive purpose’ not to employ certain classes of people and thereby claim exemption from employment discrimination laws under the ‘freedom not to associate,’ the results could be catastrophic and widespread.” Consistent with defendants’ expressive association theory, the brief argues that “there is nothing to prevent an employer who sincerely believes in white supremacy from invoking his ‘freedom not to associate’ to refuse to hire black employees, or an employer who sincerely believes in white supremacy.” believes the Jews are responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus for refusing to hire them.”
The brief notes that defendants’ expansive view of expressive association with respect to employment is not supported by Supreme Court or Fourth Circuit case law. Previous cases involving expressive association claims involved volunteer leadership roles and membership in private organizations rather than employment.
Workplace discrimination remains a pervasive problem across the country, according to the report, with more than 60 percent of American workers reporting they have experienced or witnessed discrimination based on race, age, gender, or LGBTQ+ status. Nearly half of LGBTQ+ workers in a recent survey reported having “experienced adverse treatment at work because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and nearly a third reported such treatment in the past five years,” the report states.
Today’s brief was led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and joined by attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey , New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington.