On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in Bostock v Clayton County, Georgia. Bostock involved three cases from different parts of the country: in the first case, an employee was terminated after he joined a gay recreational softball league; in the second case, an employee was terminated after he mentioned that he was gay; in the third case, an employee who originally presented as a male when hired was terminated after “she informed her employer that she planned to live and work full-time as a woman.” The question for the Supreme Court was summed up as follows – does an employer violate Title VII, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, when it terminates an employee’s employment because the employee is gay, lesbian, or transgender?
The Supreme Court, by a 6-3 vote, answered that question in the affirmative. The Court reasoned that discrimination on the basis of homosexual or transgender status requires an employer to intentionally treat individual employees differently because of their sex. For example, a transgender individual is treated differently from an opposite-sex employee because a biological male who identifies as a female would not be permitted to dress or operate as a woman, even though a female would not be penalized for the same attire or behavior. By way of further example, a gay employee who is terminated because of his attraction to men is treated differently from a heterosexual female employee, whose attraction to men is accepted. The Court concluded that such distinctions are, therefore, made on the basis of sex, in violation of Title VII.
Bostock is guaranteed to have a ripple effect, impacting areas outside of Title VII. Perhaps most pertinently for schools and universities – Bostock may alter interpretations of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex. Beyond such foreseeable developments, there will surely be other ways in which Bostock influences subsequent law. For now, LGBTQ advocates have achieved victory before the highest court in the country, securing employment protections for LGBTQ workers.
The opinion may be accessed here.