In a historic victory for LGBTQ workers, the United States Supreme Court ruled today that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This landmark employment law decision resolves a question that had split courts across the country. It provides security and protections for tens of millions of gay and transgender American workers while also bringing clarity for employers.
The 6-3 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County actually involved three separate cases. In the words of Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the majority, “Each of the three cases before us began in the same way: An employer fired a long-time employee shortly after the employee revealed that he or she is homosexual or transgender—and allegedly for no reason other than the employee’s homosexuality or transgender status.”
Under Title VII, employers cannot discriminate against workers based on sex, race, religion, national origin, and other protected characteristics. At issue was whether the act’s prohibition of discrimination because of “sex,” a term left undefined in the statute, also included discrimination based on a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and several courts across the country had held that it does, while many courts ruled to the contrary. In Bostock, the current administration argued that Title VII’s reference to “sex” solely related to the protection of females in the workplace. Soundly rejecting that argument, the Court said that “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.”
Bostock is the first significant Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ rights since its 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision on same-sex marriage. For employers and employees alike, the case removes uncertainty about what is and what is not acceptable in the workplace when it comes to discrimination against gay and transgender workers.
Speak With a Michigan Employment Law Attorney
If you have questions or concerns about this Supreme Court ruling, discrimination, or any other workplace issues, the employment attorneys at Sommers Schwartz can provide you with sound, straightforward counsel to guide your decision-making. To discuss your situation, please contact Tad Roumayah at firstname.lastname@example.org or (269) 324-3000.