On Monday, June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court resolved a circuit split and issued a landmark decision by a 6-3 vote, explaining that Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex extends to protect individuals from discrimination because of their sexual orientation or transgender status.
The majority opinion of the Court, styled Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and delivered by Justice Gorsuch, resolved three pending cases from the Second, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuits—all raising similar questions regarding the scope of Title VII’s protections, and whether Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex, extended protections to individuals based on their sexual orientation and/or transgender status:
- Bostock v. Clayton Cty., No. 17-1618, 2019 U.S. LEXIS 2927 (2019) (on appeal from the 11th Cir.);
- Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda, No. 17-1623, 2019 U.S. LEXIS 2931 (2019) (on appeal from the 2nd Cir.);
- R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC, No. 18-107, 2019 U.S. LEXIS 2846 (2019) (on appeal from the 6th Cir.).
Employers in the Fifth Circuit should note that this expansion of Title VII—to protect individuals from employment discrimination because of their sexual orientation or transgender status—expressly overrules the Fifth Circuit’s prior precedent in Blum v. Gulf Oil Corp, 597 F.2d 936 (5th Cir. 1979) (holding that Title VII only applies to discrimination on the basis of sex, not sexual orientation). It is important for employers to ensure that their internal policies and procedures, such as employee handbooks, along with employee training, be updated to reflect this significant change in the law and ensure compliance with the expanded scope of Title VII.
A copy of the Supreme Court’s decision, including the dissents from Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Alito (joined by Justice Thomas), can be found here.
For more information on how this could impact your business, contact:
- Felicity Fowler, Partner (firstname.lastname@example.org, 214-307-6961)
- Daniel Atkinson, Attorney (email@example.com, 214-307-6963)
- or another member of the McGinnis Lochridge Employment, Labor & Employee Benefits Practice Group