Bostock v. Clayton County – Supreme Court of the United States

Federal employment discrimination law protects LGBTQ employees

June 15, 2020 – The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 6–3 decision by Justice Neil Gorsuch covering all three cases that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is necessarily also discrimination “because of sex” as prohibited by Title VII.

This case consolidates two lawsuits, each containing a claim by an employee alleging that he was terminated by his employer because of his sexual orientation. These employees argue that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which proscribes discrimination “because of…sex,” inherently prohibits sexual orientation discrimination because one’s sexual orientation necessarily depends on one’s sex. To further support this argument, the employees contend that Title VII’s plain language, statutory and judicial history, and other provisions all support interpreting the statute to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Court held that employers who discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity unlawfully intend to rely on sex in their decision-making. Justice Gorsuch, along with Chief Justice Roberts and the four liberal justices of the Court, wrote, in deciding the question of whether an employer can fire an individual for being homosexual or transgender: “the answer is clear.” Specifically, “an employer who fires 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.” Ultimately, “an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”

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