The woman who brought transgender workers’ issues before the Supreme Court will have a lasting legacy

June 16, 2020, 12:33 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Journalist Maria Ressa faces a conviction in the Philippines, the WNBA is set for tip off, and—thanks to Aimee Stephens—we take an essential step toward basic fairness in the workplace. Have an inspired Tuesday.

– This ruling rules. We’ve been overdue for some good news, right? Well, yesterday delivered: the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 to protect the rights of LGBTQ workers. As Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority, “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” (Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan all joined the majority.)

The case asked the justices to decide whether the reference to “sex” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—which bars employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and sex—applies to gay and transgender workers. For the conservatives who voted with the majority, particularly Gorsuch, the question seems to have come down to “textural” concerns. In other words, does the law as written—regardless of the writers’ intent—protect gay and transgender employees. For Gorsuch, the answer is a clear “yes.”

As someone who is very much not an attorney, such legal rationales seem less important than the fundamental ethical questions at play: Do we live in a society where it should be legal to fire someone for being gay or transgender? Do we want to?

Monday’s ruling, as the justices have allowed, is narrow: it doesn’t answer questions like who can use gender-specific restrooms or locker rooms or participate in gender-divided groups like sports teams—and, most importantly, it does not address the question of whether religious employers can choose to discriminate against gay or trans people. I suspect those questions will resurface soon enough, but for now it’s just nice to enjoy this essential step toward basic fairness in the workplace.

Finally, I’d encourage you to take a moment to read this story about Aimee Stephens, the transgender woman who brought the suit that widened the case to include trans people. Stephens died last month, so missed the opportunity to see what her bravery has achieved—but her influence will live on and be felt by many.

Kristen Bellstrom

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Claire Zillman. 


- Pressing on. A Manila court on Monday convicted Maria Ressa, founder and CEO of online news organization Rappler, of cyber libel in a case filed by a local businessman. Ressa, a Time 'Person of the Year' in 2018, and her ex-colleague Reynaldo Santos were sentenced to up to six years in jail and plan to appeal. The ruling is expected to have a chilling effect on press freedom in the Philippines, and Ressa urged her journalist peers to defend their "rights guaranteed under the constitution." Time

- Discrimination claims. Two of the three employees on Pinterest's public policy and social impact team left the company in late May, alleging racial discrimination. The two women, both black, say they were underpaid and had complaints to HR dismissed. One of them, Ifeoma Ozoma, led a widely praised initiative to remove vaccine misinformation, but claims that behind the scenes a male colleague leaked her contact information, soliciting doxxing attacks. Pinterest, which has publicly voiced its "solidarity" with black employees, told Bloomberg it investigated the women's accusations and found no wrongdoing. Bloomberg

- Tip off. The WNBA said on Monday it reached an agreement with its players' union for an abbreviated 22-game regular season starting in late July. Playoffs will feature single-elimination in the first two rounds and five-game series for the semifinals and championship. Key to the deal is players' right to 100% of their salaries despite playing 14 fewer regular season games amid the pandemic. ESPN

- RIP. A Black Lives Matter activist was found dead in Tallahassee on Saturday, another tragedy during a week in which 'All Black Lives Matter' has become a protest mantra. Oluwatoyin Salau, 19, was one of two women whose bodies were discovered in a southeast area of the city. Police say the deaths are being investigated, but didn't say if they were related. A suspect is in custody. Salau had been missing since June 6 after tweeting a description of what seemed to be a sexual assault. New York Times

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Julie Callahan, formerly a portfolio manager at PIMCO, has joined Morgan Stanley Investment Management as a managing director and head of Municipal Bonds in Global Fixed Income. Two veteran journalists in charge of Voice of America, Amanda Bennett and Sandra Sugawara, resigned on Monday after filmmaker Michael Pack, a close associate of Stephen Bannon, was confirmed to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees the broadcast organization. 


- Seeking stability. There remain plenty of unknowns about Beijing's new national security law aimed at Hong Kong, but already members of the city's business community are voicing support for it. That includes Laura Cha, chairman of the Hong Kong stock exchange. She said the new measure was a surprise when Beijing proposed it last month, but that it will create "the clarity and stability for us to move forward." Bloomberg

- Independent Meg. A new WSJ story explores the relationship between Quibi CEO Meg Whitman and company founder Jeffrey Katzenberg as the streaming video platform hunts for relevance amid fierce competition and a pandemic that undercuts its top selling point: content for on-the-go consumption. Whitman reportedly threatened to quit early in her tenure, feeling as though Katzenberg demeaned, interrupted, and micromanaged her. (A Quibi spokesperson says the two “have formed a strong partnership built on trust and authenticity.") The two later struck a deal that gave Whitman more independence. Wall Street Journal

- Cleaning up. Serial entrepreneur Sarah Paiji Yoo launched her eco-cleaning startup Blueland a year ago with the goal of cutting household waste and single-use plastic consumption. Her timing was fortuitous given how the pandemic has renewed consumers' focus on household cleanliness and personal hygiene, a behavioral trend Yoo says is "here to stay." Fortune



Afghan maternity ward to close after deadly attack BBC

Planned Parenthood backs Biden, seeing a 'life and death election' ahead NPR

Japan’s army of insurance saleswomen feel threat of digital revolution FT

Hong Kong to more than double maternity pay cap and extend leave SCMP


"When we had these conversations with Sephora, it was nine women on a Zoom call."

-Aurora James, creator of the "15 Percent Pledge," on how female executives are leading efforts to promote black-owned brands

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet