The US Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in a trio of employment discrimination cases which held that non-discrimination protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on membership in a protected class, including sex, includes protections for individuals identifying as gay or transgender. The 6-3 decision, penned by Justice Neil Gorsuch, is a consolidation of three individual cases involving workplace discrimination against LGBTQ+ employees; Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia; Altitude Express Inc v. Zarda; and R.G. & G.R. Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC. The facts of these individual cases, which we discussed in a previous blog, can be found here: https://www.berchemmoses.com/blog/2019/04/u-s-supreme-court-to-hear-lgbt-employment-rights-cases/.
Although employees in roughly half the country, including Connecticut, are protected by state laws which explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the district courts were split on whether the language in Title VII prohibiting discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sex, includes discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Yesterday’s decision unequivocally answers that questions in the affirmative.
Justice Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the Court’s liberal bloc of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. Gorsuch wrote “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.”
The Court further held that sexual orientation or gender identity need not be the only reason why an employee is disciplined or terminated for an employee to bring a Title VII claim. So long as the employee can show that their status as a member of the LGBTQ+ community played a factor in the employer’s action, the employee will be protected under Title VII.
The Labor and Employment attorneys at Berchem Moses PC can help employers keep up to date on the evolving interpretations of state and federal law impacting the workplace.