On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia that discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits, among other things, discrimination against employees based on “sex.” Federal courts have long divided on whether Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination also prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status. The Bostock decision makes clear that discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status is prohibited under federal law. Specifically, the Court noted that, under long standing law, an employer violates Title VII when it intentionally fires or otherwise takes adverse action against an employee based in whole or in part on sex.
The Court held it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without also discriminating against that individual based on the individual’s sex. The Court reasoned (a) firing a male employee for being attracted to a male employee, while taking no action against female employees attracted to male employees; and (b) firing a transgender person who was identified as a male at birth, but who identifies as a female, while taking no action against similar employees who identify as female at birth, both constituted discrimination based on sex. While other factors may play a role in the employer’s decision in the aforementioned decisions, the Court concluded such decisions are inevitably based, at least in part, on the individual employee’s sex, and therefore the employer’s conduct violates the plain language of Title VII.
This ruling brings federal law into alignment with many state and local statutes, which already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status.
In light of the Bostock decision, employers should review their employment policies to ensure their policies clearly prohibit sexual orientation and transgender discrimination. Please contact Gozdecki, Del Giudice, Americus Farkas & Brocato LLP if you need assistance reviewing and updating your employment policies.
Please note that information contained in this Client Alert is not and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion nor does this news alert create an attorney-client relationship.