Senior living operators would be well advised to heed two recent developments on the labor-relations front. One is a landmark ruling; the other is a sleeper settlement.

First things first: On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that a civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination also protects gay and transgender workers.

The decision was unexpected. Almost as surprising is that it was written by Neil Gorsuch, who happens to be President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee.

 “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law,” Gorsuch wrote for the majority.

Gorsuch noted that lawmakers “who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result.” Talk about an understatement: When the 1964 law was passed, homosexuality was deemed a “psychiatric disorder” by the American Psychiatric Association.

“But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands,” he added.

Amid far less notice, another development that could have implications for employers in this sector quietly played out. In California, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory agreed to pay $10 million and revamp its employment practices to settle a lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The accusation: age discrimination. The suit claimed the lab’s layoff and rehiring policies had an adverse impact on employees 40 and older when conducting layoffs and rehiring.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory will place the eight-figure amount into a fund for older employees who allegedly were fired and methodically replaced with younger workers, according to an agreement with the EEOC.

The agency also will track future layoffs and attempts to place employees into new positions.

Getting old generally is not considered a psychiatric disorder. But many employers seem to view it as a failing of sorts. Numerous studies have shown that ageism in the workplace is both widespread and often considered the “last acceptable bias,” according to the AARP. 

The message in these two developments could not be clearer: discrimination has no place in the workplace.

Most experts agree that training is the key to discrimination and harassment prevention. That’s especially true for front-line supervisors and managers, who tend to be over-represented in bias claims. Providing all team members with training on preventing bias, harassment, discrimination and retaliation claims is not just a good start. It should be essential.

If that seems excessive, try to look at it this way: preparing an in-service sure beats preparing for a court date.

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