On June 15, 2020, in a landmark ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided 6-3 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in the workplace, protects LGBTQ employees. The Court’s ruling established that Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions also protect workers from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The decision has broad implications for many aspects of federal anti-discrimination law, because other federal statutes, including those that protect people against discrimination in education, health care, and housing are generally interpreted to be consistent with Title VII.
Over the past twenty years, numerous lower federal courts had applied Title VII and other federal sex discrimination laws to prohibit discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The Supreme Court extended those decisions to protect all LGBTQ employees in the United States.
The Supreme Court cases involved three workers who faced workplace discrimination for being LGBTQ. Aimee Stephens, a Michigan woman who was fired from her job as a funeral director when her employer learned she was transgender. Gerald Bostock and Donald Zarda both lost their jobs after they told their employers they were gay. The estates of Aimee Stephens and Donald Zarda were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
NCLR, along with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, filed an amicus brief in the cases. The brief argued that excluding LGBTQ workers from Title VII’s protections will lead to unfair and inconsistent treatment of job discrimination claims brought by LGBTQ workers, because it is impossible, logically or practically, to separate discrimination based on LGBTQ status from other forms of sex discrimination.