Supreme Court Holds LGBTQ Employees Covered by Title VII 


On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act applies to LGBTQ employees. The vote was 6-3, with Justice Gorsuch authoring the opinion, being joined by Chief Justice Roberts and the Court's four liberal justices.

Title VII makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on an individual's sex.  The Court's ruling expanded that protection to also forbid job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status: "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. …  There is simply no escaping the role intent plays here: Just as sex is necessarily a but-for cause when an employer discriminates against homosexual or transgender employees, an employer who discriminates on these grounds inescapably intends to rely on sex in its decision making."

Two of the three cases before the Court involved gay men who said they were fired because of their sexual orientation.  The third case raised the issue of whether Title VII prohibits discrimination based on gender identity.  A link to the opinion may be found here

The ruling upholds several lower court decisions that also interpreted "sex" to expand protections to millions of workers nationwide.  Twenty-two states, along with the District of Columbia, previously enacted statutes protecting workers based on sexual orientation.  Those laws remain in effect, but now federal law mirrors that provided protection.

Employers, depending on their locale, may need to update employee handbooks and/or other policies, along with provide training to hiring managers, to ensure compliance with the ruling.

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