Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has always provided critical protections to U.S. workers. Title VII protects individuals by prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. There have, however, been questions filtering through the court system regarding whether or not “sex” extended Title VII protections to the LGBTQ community. Whether “sex” protections of Title VII included protections against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was recently ruled on in a historic opinion issued by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Recent Supreme Court Ruling on Title VII LGBTQ Protections
Bostock v. Clayton County made it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court was actually the result of several different discrimination claims that had worked their way through the court system. One involved Gerald Bostock, a social worker in Georgia. Bostock was fired not long after he opened up more about being gay. For instance, he had recently joined a gay softball league in the area. Donald Zarda also faced adverse employment consequences as a result of his sexual orientation. Zarda was terminated from his position as a skydiving instructor after jokingly mentioning to a female customer that was strapped in for a tandem dive that he was gay.
On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court issued its ruling on the Bostock case. The ruling provided long-awaited clarity into whether Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, extended protections to LGBTQ employees. In a 6-3 ruling, the majority answered in the affirmative. The court ruled that Title VII prohibits discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as “sex” plays an integral and inextricable role in this kind of discrimination. Dissenters from the majority opinion protested that the court was not, in fact, interpreting the law, but was actually changing the law with this opinion.
Writing for the majority, Justice Gorsuch stated that “We must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.” Justice Gorsuch goes on to make it clear that the decision is narrowly defined. The decision is not meant to address implications regarding bathrooms or locker rooms. Also, the decision is not meant to address any sort of constitutional or federal protections that would act to shield employers on a religious basis.
Employment Discrimination Attorney
This recent Title VII ruling by the Supreme Court is a landmark decision with far-reaching implications. Employers must take notice of this ruling and address employment policies and discrimination trainings accordingly. If you have been the victim of discriminatory employment practices, Thomas M. Lancia PLLC is here for you. Contact us today.