LGBTQ+ Title VII Supreme Court Ruling & California Employment Law

In a landmark case for LGBTQ+ rights, the United States Supreme Court ruled on June 15, 2020 that employers cannot terminate someone’s employment simply for being gay, lesbian or transgender. The anti-discrimination ruling came after the majority found gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation to fall under the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Summary of the Ruling

The federal government now protects workers from discrimination in the form of job termination for being gay or transgender. The 6-3 Supreme Court ruling extended this protection to millions of workers nationwide despite the Trump Administration’s argument that Title VII did not extend to protect workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the opinion, which held that Title VII forbids the firing of an employee based on traits or actions the employer would not have questioned in someone of a different sex or sexual orientation. An employer who uses sex or sexual orientation in its firing or hiring decision-making will now be breaking federal law. It is one of the most significant rulings regarding LGBTQ+ rights in the history of the United States.

The Cases Involved

One of the main cases that brought about the Supreme Court ruling is Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. This case involved an employer who fired a long-standing employee for being homosexual. Clayton County terminated the employment of Gerald Bostock after he joined a gay recreational softball league. The county cited the reason for the termination as unbecoming behavior for a county employee.

The case also involved two other employers who performed the same or similar actions – firing employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Altitude Express fired Donald Zarda days after he talked about being gay. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes fired Aimee Stephens, who presented male at the time of employment, after she expressed her plans to transition to female. Each of these employees filed wrongful termination lawsuits based on protections in Title VII. The cases ended up in front of the Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled that an employer who fires someone for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.

Implications for California Employment Law

The impact the Supreme Court ruling will have on employment for lesbian, gay and transgender individuals will vary from state to state. In California, state law already prohibited employment discrimination based on sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, marital status or sexual orientation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. However, the new decision will broaden the benefits employees can receive under employer benefit plans.

The decision may make it easier for workers to file Title VII claims against employers for health plans that exclude coverage for same-sex spouses or deny benefits for gender affirmation/dysphoria surgeries. It could also decrease the chances of the Trump Administration’s push for the removal of protections for transgender individuals in the Affordable Care Act passing.

When to Contact a Los Angeles Discrimination Attorney

If an employer in California recently terminated your employment, refused to hire you, demoted you, cut your pay or hours, or otherwise took adverse employment action against you simply for being homosexual or transgender, contact a Los Angeles discrimination attorney right away. Your employer may be guilty of a legal violation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

New protections since the June 15th Supreme Court ruling may help you enforce your rights and allow you to take action for other forms of discrimination, such as discrimination in health care and employee benefits. An employer who refuses to properly protect your right to benefits could face penalties for doing so. Talk to a lawyer right away for more information about your specific case. A successful lawsuit could lead to payment for your damages, as well as important changes to anti-discrimination laws in your county.