U.S. Supreme Court Holds That Civil Rights Law Protects Gay and Transgender Workers

On June 15, 2020,The Supreme Court issued a landmark decision holding that Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination.

The case concerned Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and sex. The Court affirmatively decided the question as to whether — the provision: discrimination “because of sex”— applies to gay and transgender workers.

The Supreme Court considered two sets of cases. The first concerned a pair of lawsuits from gay men who said they were fired because of their sexual orientation: Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga., No. 17-1618 and Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, No. 17-1623. The second concerned a suit from a transgender woman, Aimee Stephens, who said her employer fired her when she announced that she would embrace her gender identity at work.

In the first case, Gerald Bostock, a gay man alleged that he was fired from a government program in Clayton County, Ga., after he joined a gay softball league. The second was brought by a skydiving instructor, Donald Zarda, who also said he was fired because he was gay.

In regard to transgender rights, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, No. 18-107, was brought by a transgender woman, Aimee Stephens, who was fired from a Michigan funeral home after she announced in 2013 that she was a transgender woman and would start working in women’s clothing.

Ms. Stephens had worked at the funeral home for six years. Her colleagues testified that she was able and compassionate. The home’s owner, fired Ms. Stephens, “…because he was no longer going to represent himself as a man. He wanted to dress as a woman.”

The Court held, “It is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex. Discrimination ‘because of sex’ inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.”

If you desire assistance in interpreting or complying with these decisions, please contact the Law Office of Phillip A. Austin at attyaustin@gmail.com, call us at 480-644-0506, or visit AZJusticeforAll.org .