Legal News: Employers Wonder If the Supreme Court’s Website Designer Decision Could Impact The Workplace
In 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prohibits Colorado from forcing a website designer to create expressive designs speaking messages with which the designer disagrees. The majority characterized the case as a clash between the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech and state anti-discrimination laws in which case the Constitutional guarantee unquestionably prevails. Employers may wonder if the decision has the potential to pave the way to exclude certain groups based on their sexual orientation or other protected characteristic. As such, 303 Creative LLC could have broader implications impacting the workplace.
Federal law prohibits discrimination against employees or applicants based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age. Many jurisdictions, like Colorado, protect people from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. As a result of the Court’s ruling, certain anti-discrimination laws must yield in favor of the right to free expression. What impact might the decision have on the workplace? For example, if an employer implements policies – based on its right to free expression – that exclude certain groups, could such policies create a hostile or unwelcoming work environment for certain protected classes of employees in violation of existing federal anti-discrimination laws?
The Supreme Court’s decision sets a precedent that could influence future legal cases related to freedom of speech, discrimination, or religious freedom and has the potential to impact the interpretation and application of anti-discrimination laws in the employment context. The actual impact, if any, of this decision on employment law is unknown. Accordingly, employers may do well by proceeding with caution.
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