• Joshua C. Black

Historic Victory for LGBTQ Workers

On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled that employers cannot discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation.[1] This decision expands Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and is a major step forward towards equality in the workplace for members of the LGBTQ community who previously have had little or no recourse against workplace discrimination.

History of Title VII

Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) was signed into law in July 1964 after several decades of social unrest in the United States. Title VII was the first significant law to protect civil rights since Reconstruction after the Civil War.[2] Title VII established protections against workplace discriminate based on race, gender, religion, or national origin.[3] These characteristics came to be known as “protected classes.” Under Title VII it was now illegal to discriminate against an employee based solely on membership in one of these protected classes. The goal was to have employers consider “objective” job-related elements when making employment decisions rather than basing the decision on discriminatory factors such as an applicant’s background or gender.

In 1991, Title VII was expanded to allow employees more robust relief including access to jury trials and an award of monetary damages against the offending employer. Employees who have been discriminated against based on membership in a protected class have potential remedies including back pay, reinstatement, and retroactive seniority. These remedies may be available to all employees who were discriminated against based on their protected class whether the discrimination was intentional or merely had a disparate impact.

In recent years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) began to broaden its definition of gender discrimination to include gender identity discrimination. However, prior to the Supreme Court’s June 15th ruling, most courts had not adopted this broader definition of Title VII and the LGBTQ community has been left without basic fundamental rights in the workplace.

Going Forward

In its landmark decision on June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled to expand Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Justice Neil 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.[4] Justice Gorsuch further wrote, “If the employer fires a male employee for no reason other than the fact he is attracted to men, the employer discriminates against him for traits or actions it tolerates in his female colleague.”[5]

According to the Williams Institute at UCLA law school, roughly 11.3 million LGBTQ people live in the United States.[6] After today, all US Courts will be bound by this new precedent preventing employers from discriminating against employees based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Additional Information Regarding Title VII

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 authors. Mr. Black and Mr. Sinning 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] Title VII History, PLC Labor & Employment, 15 January 2013. [4] “Justices Rule LGBT people protected from job discrimination,” by Mark Sherman, AP News. 15 June 2015.

[5] See Bostock.

[6] https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/visualization/lgbt-stats/?topic=LGBT#density. Last visited June 15, 2020.

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