Claims for unemployment benefits in Texas are generally straightforward. Typically, the only way a former employee can be denied benefits is if they voluntarily quit or are found to have intentionally engage in misconduct. Seems pretty straightforward, right? What happens in a situation where an employee voluntarily quits citing good reason for doing so. Tracey Lewis, one of the attorneys in our firm recently won a case before the Texas Workforce Commission Appeal Tribunal on this basis. Good reason in this context means that if something happens at work that would induce a person who is genuinely interested in retaining the employment to nevertheless leave. In this particular case, the departing employee was happy at her previous job with her employer but was transferred to a position that caused her stress and anxiety to the point that she had to leave. She voluntarily terminated citing good reason but the employer fought her ability to collect benefits. The Appeal Tribunal at the Texas Workforce Tribunal found that she had good reason and reinstated her benefits.
To say that I was concerned as to what might have come in the Bostock case, before the United States Supreme Court, that determined the rights of LGBTQ employees to have a remedy for employment discrimination, is a bit of an understatement. I was cautiously optimistic that when Justice Kennedy retired, Chief Justice Roberts would assume the role of the “swing” vote but I had no clue what would happen past that. I was firmly personally convinced that the LGBTQ workforce was intended to be covered by the drafters of Title VII when it was drafted as it was clearly an all-inclusive statute. That didn’t necessarily mean that the composition of this Supreme Court would be in accord.
I was pleasantly surprised when Justice Gorsuch joined the majority resulting in a 6-3 decision. When I read through the opinion I was less surprised. He did what a competent Supreme Court Justice (or any federal judge for that matter) should do. He put personal views aside and followed the law. One line from the 163-page opinion says it best in my view. “Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.”
This is not a monumental decision only for the LGBTQ workforce but in the broader spectrum, as we as a society are in the process of wading through some very troubled times, it is a decision that will go down in history for its unequivocal unifying effect.