SCOTUS Rules Employers Cannot Discriminate on Basis of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity

In a landmark decision, SCOTUS held that “[a]n employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.” 

SCOTUS Rules Employers Cannot Discriminate on Basis of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity

SCOTUS Rules Employers Cannot Discriminate on Basis of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity

In a landmark decision, SCOTUS held that “[a]n employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.” 

Author: Caitlin P. Dettmer|June 16, 2020

In a landmark decision, on June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court held that “[a]n employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.” Title VII generally protects individuals from being discriminated against based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  The U.S. Supreme Court determined that “sex” encompasses sexual orientation and gender identity. 

The decision makes clear that firing someone because of the sex to which they are attracted and/or with which they identify is illegal.  “[I]f changing the employee’s sex would have yielded a different choice by the employer—a statutory violation has occurred,” wrote Justice Gorsuch.

The Court provided an example:  A male employee is fired, in part, because he is attracted to men.  Would that same employee have been fired if he was attracted to women?  If the answer is no, illegal discrimination on the basis of sex has occurred as that person has been fired “for traits or actions [that] would not have [been] questioned in members of a different sex.” 

Prior to this decision, less than half of the states provided protection to employees who faced negative employment actions based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

New Jersey

New Jersey’s own Law Against Discrimination, which has historically protected a broader array of individuals from discrimination than federal law, has included sexual orientation since 1991 and gender identity since 2007.

New York

Likewise, New York’s Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act has been in effect since 2003 and its Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act took effect in 2019.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Caitlin P. Dettmer, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.

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About Author Caitlin P. Dettmer

Caitlin P. Dettmer

Caitlin P. Dettmer works with private and public sector clients on both state and federal labor and employment issues. She also has experience handling intellectual property matters, including trademark registration and infringement issues.

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