• Joshua C. Black

Equality in the Workplace for the LGBTQ Community

By: Sara N. Tulane, J.D.


On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court decided a monumental case for the LGBTQ Community, interpreting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit an employer from “fire[ing] an individual merely for being gay or transgender.”[1]

Title VII Now Protects the LGBTQ Community


The decision focused on “sex” discrimination under Title VII and applied rationale typically used for gender discrimination to the LGBTQ community. The Court clarified that “an employer violates Title VII when it intentionally fires an individual in whole or in part on sex.”[2] The Court used prior cases to highlight examples of sex discrimination within the workplace. Each of the cases, however, were not sex discrimination per sa, instead the Court had to look at the ulterior motives to determine whether sex discrimination applied.

For example, in Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corp., 400 U.S. 542, a corporation violated Title VII by intentionally failing to hire mothers with young children.[3] The corporation argued that the discrimination did not fall under Title VII, however, the Court was not persuaded. By failing to hire mothers with young children, the corporation discriminated against women based on their status as a mother. The Court added “such labels and additional intentions or motives did not make a difference.”[4] Discrimination based upon a sex classification is a violation under Title VII. The Court then utilized the logic in Philips to determine that who a plaintiff is attracted to is not a significant factor when determining their employment.

The Court emphasized that Title VII always called for a broad interpretation. By applying a broad interpretation of Title VII, members of the LGBTQ community may also acquire equal protection under the law. Adding, “Congress chose not to include any exceptions to a broad rule, this Court applies the broad rule.”[5] Members of the LGBTQ community no longer have to wait for Congress or local state governments to enact laws for similar protections. Because of this decision, all LGBTQ members are provided equal and fair opportunities within the workplace.

What This Means for Arizona

Prior to this decision, Arizona failed to protect members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination within the workplace. For example, an employer could fire or refuse to hire an individual based solely upon their LGBTQ status. However, this decision now makes such action illegal. All companies located within Arizona¾ as well as the entire United States, may no longer discriminate or facilitate discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community within the workplace. This is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII.

With this decision, employees who have been fired or have experience harassment based on their LGBTQ status have legal standing. This means that an individual may have a legal claim when experiencing disproportionate treatment while in the workplace due to their LGBTQ status. By understanding the rights of LGBTQ members, employees and business owners can facilitate and demand fair and equal treatment within the workplace. According to Arizona employment attorney Joshua Black, “[t]his is a major step forward in the push for equality and will have lasting impact for those in the LGBTQ community who previously had no recourse for workplace discrimination.”

Additional Information Regarding LGBTQ Rights

If you have any additional questions about Title VII, or if you feel that your rights have been violated by your employer, please do not hesitate to reach out to the author. Ms. Tulane may be reached at the Law Office of Joshua Black, PLC by telephone at 623-738-2225 or through the firm’s website www.azemploymentlawyer.com.

[1] Bostock v. Clayton County, No. 17-1618 (U.S. Jun. 15, 2020) (emphasis added). The Supreme Court combined three cases and ruled that sexual orientation and gender identity are subsets of discrimination based on sex. [2] Id. [3] Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corp., 400 U.S. 542 (1971). [4] Id. [5] Id.

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