On June 15, 2020, in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia,the Supreme Court held that an employer cannot discriminate against or fire an employee for being gay or transgender. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. “Sex” typically refers to the biological designation at birth of being male or female. Prior to this Supreme Court decision, LGBTQ employees facing discrimination due to their sexual orientation and gender expression were not considered protected under this law.
The Supreme Court decision included the cases of three individuals. Gerald Bostock who was fired for participating in a gay softball league, Donald Zara who was fired after mentioning he was gay, and Aimee Stephens, who was fired after informing her employer that she planned to live and work full time as a woman. When Ms. Stephens was hired, she presented as male.
In these cases, the employers fired a male employee for being attracted to men and fired an employee who previously presented as male for now dressing in clothing associated with women. The employers would not fire a female employee for having an attraction to men nor would they fire a female employee for dressing in clothing associated with women. The employers’ actions intentionally penalized the employees for acting in a way that was outside the behavior the employer expected of someone of that sex.
The Supreme Court reasoned that when an employer discriminates against an LGBTQ employee the employer is relying on sex when making the determination because the employer is firing an employee for behavior that would have been permitted in someone of another sex. Therefore, the Supreme Court held that firing an employee for being gay or transgender violates the Title VII prohibition on sex discrimination.
Going forward LGBTQ employees should now be able to pursue Title VII discrimination claims on the basis of sex if being discriminated against for their sexual orientation or gender expression.
If you have been a victim of employment discrimination, SCLS may be able to help. Apply to see if you qualify for our free legal service. Apply by calling our statewide intake office at 1-888-346-5593, Monday through Thursday. You can also apply online at https://www.lawhelp.org/sc/online-intake.