Workforce

Landmark Supreme Court ruling extends workplace protections to LGBT employees

US Supreme Court shutterstock photo ID: 376063027 By Tinnaporn Sathapornnanont 

In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a federal civil rights law covers lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees in the workplace.

On June 15, the high court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment based on sex, includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

John Roberts and Neil Gorsuch joined the four more liberal justices in the decision, with Gorsuch writing the majority opinion.

Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Gerald Bostock, a former child welfare coordinator for Clayton County, Ga., filed the original lawsuit when he was fired from his job in 2013.

He alleged in Bostock v. Clayton County that his firing for "conduct unbecoming a county employee" was because he joined a gay softball team.

"The Court asserts again and again that discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity inherently or necessarily entails discrimination because of sex," Gorsuch wrote. “It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”

Prior to the Court’s ruling, 31 states and Washington, D.C. had anti-discrimination laws that included sexual orientation and gender identity policies to protect public-sector LGBT employees, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

Federal employees have enjoyed these workplace protections for years, as a matter of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission policy.

"The people for whom this decision effects the least change is the federal workforce because the EEOC has had this view that Title VII protects transgender workers since 2012," Sharon McGowen, the Chief Strategy Director and Legal Director for Lambda Legal told FCW. “Today's decision really locks that all in, and all confusion should be put to rest. The EEOC had been getting it right for a long time."

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which was party to an amicus brief in the case, hailed the ruling.

"The labor movement has long fought for equality and justice for all workers, including members of the LGBTQ community. Today's landmark Supreme Court victory is long overdue, and a significant step toward achieving the protections and respect that all workers deserve. No worker should ever be discriminated against because of who they are or the person they love," AFSCME President Lee Saunders said in a statement.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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