U.S. Supreme Court Makes Discrimination Against LGBTQ Unconstitutional

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Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia is a consolidated case dealing with discrimination of employees due to sexual orientation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The case was consolidated with Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, a similar case of apparent discrimination due to sexual orientation, but which had created a circuit split. Oral arguments were heard on October 8, 2019, alongside R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a similar question of discrimination under the Civil Rights Act, relating to transgender persons. Today, the Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that Title VII protections do apply to gay and transgender persons.

Gerald Bostock was an employee of Clayton County, within the Atlanta metropolitan area, as an official within its juvenile court since 2003, with good performance records through the years. In early 2013, he joined a gay softball league and promoted it for volunteerism. In April 2013, Clayton County conducted an audit of funds controlled by Bostock and subsequently fired him for “conduct unbecoming a county employee.”

Bostock believed that the county used the claim of misspent funds as a pretense for firing him for being gay, and sought legal recourse for workplace discrimination in 2016 to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. The county sought to dismiss the claim, which the judge agreed, as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not include protection against discrimination towards sexual orientation, using the precedence of the 2017 case Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital decided by the Eleventh Circuit (of which the District is part of). Bostock appealed to the Eleventh Circuit, where the three-judge panel affirmed the District Court’s ruling in 2018. The Eleventh Circuit relied on two prior cases: it’s previous ruling in Evans, and Blum v. Gulf Oil Corp. from the Fifth Circuit in 1976. In upholding the ruling, the Eleventh Circuit pointed to their ruling in Evans that dismissed the Supreme Court’s precedent against sex discrimination set by Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins (1989), related to expectations of stereotypical gender behavior, and Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc. (1998), related to same-sex harassment.

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision ruled that sexual orientation and expression are protected classes under Title VII of the U.S. Constitution.  Title VII is the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin by federal and state governments.  The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that discrimination against LGBTQ individuals is discrimination based upon sex.

As a result of this landmark decision, LGBTQ discrimination is now outlawed in every aspect of employment in all states. With very limited exceptions, employers must adjust their policies to reflect this decision.  Please contact your Guardian HR consultant for further guidance on how to comply with this latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling.