In a landmark ruling on June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, agreed on extended protections for gay and transgender workers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
Title VII is a federal law protecting employees against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Until the ruling, circuit courts of appeal were divided on whether “sex” included an employee’s gender identity or sexual orientation. In one of the most consequential issues of the term, the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling will extend federal civil rights laws to cover the LGBTQ+ community.
Justice Neil M. Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented, in addition to Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who in a separate dissent, argued that although there are good arguments to amend Title VII to protect individuals against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the decision should be made by Congress.
“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear,” Justice Gorsuch wrote. “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.”
To read the ruling, click here.
The court’s decision was based on three cases involving claims of employment discrimination, after long-time employees lost their jobs shortly after revealing to their employers that they were homosexual or transgender.
Mary Ruth Houston is Co-Managing Partner of the Orlando office and Chair of the firm’s Labor & Employment Law Practice Group. She is certified as a mediator in Florida courts and the Middle District of Florida. She was selected as ...
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