In a landmark ruling expanding Title VII anti-discrimination rights to gay and transgender workers, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in three companion cases. The 30 page majority opinion (a 6-3 split) was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts along with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
The Court considered three cases – one of a male Employee of Clayton County, Georgia, who was fired for “unbecoming” conduct after he joined a gay recreational softball league, the second was a skydiving instructor who was terminated days after mentioning he was gay, and the third being a transgender (male to female) employee of a funeral home who was fired after informing her employer that she planed to live and work as a female. None of the employers disputed that they fired the employee for being gay or transgender. They argued only that such status was not protected under Title VII.
The Court held, “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.” As stated in the syllabus of the decision, “Because discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status requires an employer to intentionally treat individual employees differently because of their sex, an employer who intentionally penalizes an employee for being homosexual or transgender also violates Title VII.”
Ohio, as most states, does not specifically include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes in its anti-discrimination statute (ORC 4112). However, Ohio courts have traditionally followed federal interpretation of Title VII, and would be likely to do so with this ruling if cases were brought in state courts.
What does this mean for employers?
Many employers have already specifically included sexual orientation and/or gender identity under their anti-discrimination policies. Most EEO and anti-discrimination policies will also include language such as “other classifications protected by law”. If your EEO and anti-discrimination policies do not have this language, they should be updated immediately. All supervisors and managers should also be informed of this decision. In Ohio, supervisors can be held individually liable for violations of Ohio’s anti-discrimination laws. And all employees should receive updated harassment and discrimination training that reflects the current law.
If you have any questions regarding this decision, or need help with policy revisions or training, please contact Jennifer Corso. firstname.lastname@example.org, 216-381-3400 x119.
The United States Supreme Court decided Bostock v. Clayton County this morning, affirming the rights of LGBTQ workers under Title VII, protecting them from discrimination. The decision in favor of LGBTQ workers was decided 6-3 and written by Justice Neil Gorsuch who was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Title VII explicitly prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” but it doesn’t name sexual orientation or gender identity which are protected classes under the New York Human Rights Law. This decision formalizes federal protection for LGBTQ employees.