In a landmark decision yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court solidified protections for homosexual and transgender employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The High Court held that an employer violates Title VII, which makes it unlawful to discriminate against an individual because of the individual’s sex, by firing an individual for being homosexual or being a transgender person. Bostock v. Clayton Cty., Georgia, No. 17-1618, 2020 WL 3146686 (U.S. June 15, 2020). Writing for the 6-member majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch explained that “sex need not be the sole or primary cause of the employer’s adverse action.” “That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.” The dissenting justices disagreed, arguing that in 1964 Congress did not intend the prohibition against “sex” discrimination to extend to sexual orientation or gender identity, and that it should be left up to Congress (not the courts) to expand the protections of Title VII beyond those specifically enumerated in the statute.
The High Court’s decision means employers should review and update their policies and practices to ensure they do not exclude or adversely impact employees or applicants based on their homosexuality or transgender status. For further guidance and assistance updating your policies, please contact a BurnsBarton attorney at 602-753-4500.