Federal Law Now Protects against Workplace Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Federal Law Now Protects against Workplace Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

On Monday, June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, ruled that an employer who fires a worker merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII. 

Title VII is the federal civil rights statute that makes it “unlawful…for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual… because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. §2000e-2(a)(1). 

Specifically, the Supreme Court stated that “[a]n 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.” Thus, because “[s]ex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision,” the termination of such an employee is a violation against the Title VII protection against discrimination based on sex. 

The Court also affirmed that, as with any claim of discrimination based on sex under Title VII, an employer cannot escape liability by citing some other factor that contributed to the employment decision—if sex (and now, sexual orientation or gender identity) was one of the reasons for that decision, that violates Title VII.  The Court’s decision today extends workplace anti-discrimination protections to gay and transgender workers across the country. 

In California, protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are not new for most employees.  While this recent U.S. Supreme Court case decided that discrimination against homosexual and transgender individuals was discrimination based on sex, California’s Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA) had already explicitly stated that it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a person based on, among other traits, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.  However, FEHA does not apply to federal employees in California.  With this recent Supreme Court decision, federal employees in California will now be protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity under Title VII.

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*The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should contact a licensed California attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. Information on this website may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Minami Tamaki LLP.

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