June 19, 2020, Number 25
Download the full .pdf version here: TML Legislative Update 25
U.S. Supreme Court Decides Employment Discrimination Case
On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Title VII) protects individual employees who are gay or transgendered from employment discrimination.
The case arose from three consolidated lawsuits, in which three separate employers fired long-time employees for being gay or transgendered. In the first case, Clayton County fired Gerald Bostock for conduct “unbecoming” a county employee shortly after he began participating in a gay recreational softball league. The second case was filed by Donald Zarda after he was fired by Altitude Express days after he mentioned being gay. The third case was filed against R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes by Aimee Stephens, who presented as a male when she was hired, and was fired after she informed her employer that she planned to “live and work full-time as a woman.” The employees each brought suit under Title VII alleging unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex.
Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge or otherwise discriminate against any individual because of, among other things, the individual’s sex. The court determined that the language of Title VII is unambiguous, finding that an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII because the employer necessarily and intentionally applies sex-based rules.
Federal Police Reform: Executive Order and Senate Legislation
Last Tuesday, President Trump issued an executive order that addresses police reform. The order:
- Instructs the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide federal grant money only to state and local law enforcement agencies that have been, are seeking to be, or are credentialed by independent bodies certified by the U.S. attorney general.
- The attorney general’s standard for credentialing shall: (1) confirm that the local law enforcement agency’s use-of-force policy adhere to all applicable federal, state, and local laws; and (2) ensure a local law enforcement agency’s use-of force policies prohibit the use of chokeholds, except in those situations where the use of deadly force is allowed by law.
- Creates a national database between and among federal, state, local law enforcement agencies to track instances of excessive use of force.
- Calls for the DOJ and the Department of Health and Human Services to create guidelines for co-responder programs, which involve social workers or other mental health professionals working alongside law enforcement officers to assist individuals suffering from impaired mental health, homelessness, and addiction.
- Instructs congressional action to improve law enforcement practices and build community engagement.
On Wednesday, Senator Tim Scott (R – SC) followed up by unveiling the JUSTICE Act, the Senate Republicans’ police reform bill. Unlike the House Democrats’ legislation, which was introduced last week, the senate bill does not address qualified immunity. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – KY) has said that the Senate will take up the JUSTICE Act next week. The bill would, among other things:
- Require data collection on use of force and no-knock warrants.
- Encourage chokehold bans by withholding funding for law enforcement entities without bans on chokeholds, except when deadly force is authorized.
- Establish a grant program for the use of body-worn cameras and create penalties for failing to ensure correct usage.
- Create a database of police disciplinary records for law enforcement departments to use in their hiring practices.
- Make lynching a federal crime.
- Direct the DOJ to develop and provide training on de-escalation tactics and to implement duty-to-intervene policies.
- Establish the National Criminal Justice Commission Act to undertake a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system, submit studies, and provide best practices recommendations.
The League will continue to monitor and report on police reform issues.
CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) UPDATES
The Texas Municipal League is open for business. The building is closed to all but essential personnel and most staff is working remotely, but the League remains open for business and is fully ready to serve. Cities are encouraged to call or email for legal assistance, help with ordinances, or for general advice or assistance. Let us know how we can assist you and your city.
Call TML staff at 512-231-7400, or email Scott Houston for legal assistance at SHouston@tml.org; Rachael Pitts for membership support at RPitts@tml.org; and the training team for questions about conferences and workshops at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The League has prepared a coronavirus clearinghouse web page to keep cities updated. In addition, everyone who receives the Legislative Update should receive a daily email update each afternoon with information on new developments. The daily email updates will be our primary means of communication during the pandemic. Those emails are being archived chronologically as well as by subject matter.
TML member cities may use the material herein for any purpose. No other person or entity may reproduce, duplicate, or distribute any part of this document without the written authorization of the Texas Municipal League.