By now, most people have heard about the latest ruling from the Supreme Court in the Obergefell v. Hodges case with regards to gay marriage in this country. If you haven’t, here it is in a nutshell: state bans on gay marriage are now unconstitutional. For more, the full majority opinion, as well as the dissenting opinion, can be read here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf .
But what does this have to do with the workplace? On the surface, the answer would appear to be “nothing.” With this ruling still in its infancy, the wider implications are yet to be known, but there are some issues to be considered.
Married couples are entitled to several legal benefits and protections that now would appear to extend to married gay couples as well. The Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) allows for (among other things) 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for eligible employees to care for their spouse. “Significant others” and “domestic partners” are not considered “spouses.” However, presumably now, regardless of sexual orientation, all married couples would be protected under the FMLA. The Florida Civil Rights Act (“FCRA”) offers protection from discrimination based upon marital status, whether that status is married, single, divorced, widowed or separated. Now that homosexuals are allowed to be married, it’s possible that they will also be covered under the FCRA’s marital status provision. The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the more recent Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act (“ADAA”) prohibits not only discrimination against a person with a disability, but also against a person who is in a known relationship with a person with a known disability. This is known as “associational discrimination” and often is applied to the spouses of an ill or disabled person. Again here, it would appear that “spouses” are the two individuals that make up a marriage, regardless of sexual orientation, and therefore, all spouses would be covered under the ADA and the ADAA.
None of the possibilities above have been tested in the Courts yet (nor ones not listed), but be aware that with the single ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, the effects can reach previously unknown aspects of one’s business. As the business world adjusts to this ruling, case law will undoubtedly rapidly change, potentially affecting business and individuals. For the most up to date information, it is best to consult with an attorney to determine exactly what rights and protects you may, or may not, have.
Contact Wilson McCoy, P.A.. to set up a consultation to discuss these, and other Work Matters, at 407-803-5400 or [email protected]