Supreme Court Decision Bolsters Employee Rights
On June 15th the Supreme Court of the United States issued a landmark 6-3 decision in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, ruling that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) protects members of the LGBTQ+ community from employment discrimination.
The original case centers around Gerald Bostock, an employee of Clayton County, Georgia. His employment was terminated for “conduct unbecoming of a county employee” – Mr. Bostock denied any misconduct and felt his termination was instead due to the discovery of his involvement with a gay softball league. Bostock sued the county for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, arguing that this termination violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
This highly anticipated decision is based on arguments heard by the Court on October 8, 2019. This decision is a huge win for Title VII protections under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and protects Americans against employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. This new ruling states that members of the LGBTQ+ community fall under the umbrella of protection of Title VII and that terminating an employee based on their sexual orientation is a violation of Title VII and thus a violation of their civil rights.
Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the opinion of the court, stating: “[i]n our time, few pieces of federal legislation rank in significance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There, in Title VII, Congress outlawed discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. 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.” Justice Gorsuch and Chief Justice Roberts voted in line with the more liberal justices of the court, Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan and Breyer.
Justice Samuel Alito, one of the most conservative Justices on the bench, wrote a dissenting opinion. He was joined in his dissent by Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, who wrote his own dissenting opinion.
A statement from GLAAD President, Sarah Kate Ellis declared that the decision “is a step towards affirming the dignity of transgender people, and all LGBTQ people.” MRW shares this sentiment, and enthusiastically welcomes this significant expansion of employee rights and dignity at the federal level (Massachusetts already protects LGBTQ+ employees in its anti-discrimination law: Mass. Gen. L. 151B).