Supreme Court Rules That Civil Rights Law Protects LGBT Workers from Discrimination

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Jun 15, 2020
The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled in a 6-3 decision that employers may not discriminate against workers based on their LGBT status, said the Wall Street Journal. The decision was based on three related but separate cases that the court decided to consider as a package. One involved a New York skydiving instructor who said he was fired in 2010 for being gay; the second involved a Georgia man who said he was fired from his child-welfare job due to his sexual orientation; and the third involved a transgender woman from Detroit who said she was fired from her funeral home job after beginning transition.

The majority in the case, Bostock v. Clayton County,  Ga., written by Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, consisted of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan as well as Chief Justice John Roberts. They found that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to sexual orientation as well as transgender status. Justice Gorsuch wrote, "intentional discrimination based on sex violates Title VII, even if it is intended only as a means to achieving the employer’s ultimate goal of discriminating against homosexual or transgender employees. There is simply no escaping the role intent plays here: Just as sex is necessarily a but-for cause when an employer discriminates against homosexual or transgender employees, an employer who discriminates on these grounds inescapably intends to rely on sex in its decisionmaking."

Dissenting were Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas. They argued that the statute does not specifically refer to LGBT status of any sort, and further said that people at the time the law was written understood that sex was a separate factor from sexual orientation or gender presentation.

Bloomberg noted
that, right now, more than half the country's working LGBT population lives in states that do not offer explicit employment protections for them. The decision therefore holds wide implications for employers across the country.

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