U.S. Supreme Court Issues Landmark LGBTQ Discrimination Ruling

On June 15, 2020 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that an employer violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) if they discriminate against or terminate employees based on their sex including their status as gay and/or transgender employees. This extends LGBTQ+ protections to employees in the entire United States. The SCOTUS vote was 6-3 and this decision resolves a longstanding circuit split on the issue. Those who voted for the protections were Justices Gorsuch, Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Chief Justice Roberts.

Employers are now prevented from discriminating against an employee based on their gender identity or sexual orientation as it would ultimately discriminate against them based on their sex. Title VII prevents employment discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” This decision affects all employers with fifteen (15) employees or more.

This is the first time that SCOTUS has answered the question of Title VII’s application to gay and transgendered employees. The District of Columbia and twenty-one (21) states have already put in place laws that prohibit discrimination on gender identity and sexual orientation (often at a lower employee count). The EEOC currently interprets and enforces Title VII to prohibit discrimination in employment based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Federal contractors are prohibited from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation due to Executive Order 13672. However, this marks the first time that SCOTUS has weighed in on the issue.

Employer training and handbooks should be reviewed for compliance with this new information and how it affects your company going forward.