SCOTUS Prohibits Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity

June 22, 2020

On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in a landmark case, Bostock v. Clayton County, that an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII).

Under Title VII, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any individual in its hiring (or firing) because of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. An employer violates Title VII when it intentionally fires (or refuses to hire) an individual based in part on sex. It is irrelevant if other factors, aside from the individual’s sex, contributed to the employer’s decision. This is because it is a Title VII violation if an employer intentionally relies in part on an individual employee’s sex when deciding to discharge them. In Bostock, the court held that because discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status requires an employer to intentionally treat individuals differently because of their sex, an employer who intentionally penalizes an individual for being homosexual or transgender also violates Title VII.

The court also clarified that:

The court clearly stated, “In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee. We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”

This ruling takes immediate effect.

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