Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.
– Justice Neil M. Gorsuch,
Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, No. 17-1618 (2020) (p.6)
By: Cristina N. Hyde, JD
Yesterday, in a 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status.
Writing for the majority, after considering a series of cases where an individual was allegedly fired from a long-time position because they were homosexual or transgender, Justice Gorsuch turned to the plain meaning of the language contained in Title VII for guidance. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. Therefore, the question presented, in this case, was whether or not “sex” played a necessary role in the adverse employment actions at issue.
After considering a straightforward application of the language contained in Title VII, as interpreted against it’s ordinary public meaning, the Court concluded that,”discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status requires an employer to intentionally treat individual employees differently because of their sex,” which is prohibited. Therefore, an employer violates Title VII when they intentionally penalizes an employee for being transgender or homosexual.
While this ruling may not have an enormous effect in those states that already afford its LGBTQ employees protections, roughly half, federal law will now protect gay and transgender workers nationwide in those communities that do not have similar laws existing at the state level.