Supreme Court Protects LGBTQ Employees from Workplace Discrimination

On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia that employers can no longer discriminate against employees for being gay or transgender.

Until the Court’s decision, lower courts differed as to whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protected employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation when it prohibited employees because of “sex”.

Gerald Bostock—a gay man—was an employee of Clayton County, Georgia. Shortly after he participated in a gay softball league, he was fired without justification for “conduct unbecoming a county employee.” The Supreme Court ruled in a 6–3 decision written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump nominee, and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee, in Bostock’s favor.

The Court focused on the plain language of the law to find that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is necessarily also discrimination because of sex:

“An employer who fired 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. Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.” (emphasis added).

Now, employees who experience discrimination from their employers based on sexual orientation have a clear right to go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and bring claims against their employers under Title VII.