In a landmark ruling, the United States Supreme Court today ruled existing federal law banning sex discrimination also protects workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Justices determined that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act covers discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The High Court, voting 6-3, held that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is also discrimination based on sex, which is prohibited by Title VII.
Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the opinion, siding with Chief Justice John Roberts and with the court’s liberal members. The opinion addressed three linked cases.
Today’s ruling had its start, in part, in Georgia. In one of the cases the court linked together, Gerald Bostock had been fired from a job with Clayton County helping neglected and abused children, after he joined a gay softball team. Before his termination, Bostock had been an award-winning employee.
The second case was brought by a skydiving instructor. Donald Zarda also said he was fired because he was gay. His employer terminated him after a female customer complained. She had expressed concerns about being strapped to Zarda during a tandem dive. To reassure the customer, the instructor told her that he was “100 percent gay.” Zarda died in a 2014 skydiving accident and his relatives pursued the case.
The third case involved Aimee Stephens who worked at a funeral home in Michigan. When first hired, she presented as a male. In her sixth year with the company, Stephens notified her employer that she planned to “live and work full-time as a woman.” The funeral home fired her saying, “this is not going to work out.”
Justice Gorsuch wrote: “Few facts are needed to appreciate the legal question we face. Each of the three cases before us started 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.” Near the end of his opinion, the Justice penned: “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”
This is a major and important victory for the LGBTQ community and everyone who supports that community. There is no place in our workplaces for discrimination of this kind.
If you believe that you have been discriminated against or terminated because of your sexual orientation or gender identity we invite you to reach out to us at 404-487-0903. One of our experienced attorneys will be glad to talk through your situation with you and advise you about what steps you may be able to take to protect yourself.