An Employer Who Fires an Individual Merely for Being Gay or Transgender Violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia
United States Supreme Court Docket No. 17–1618
Monday, June 15, 2020

This consolidation of three similar cases by the U.S. Supreme Court relied on, essentially, the same fact pattern. In each of the three cases, an employer fired a long-time employee shortly after the employee revealed that he or she is homosexual or transgender—and allegedly for no reason other than the employee’s homosexuality or transgender status. In each case, the former employee brought suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 alleging unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it “unlawful . . . for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual . . . because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U. S. C. §2000e–2(a)(1).

The Court analyzed the text of Title VII to conclude that the phrase “because of . . . sex” means that an employer violates Title VII when it intentionally fires an individual employee based in part on sex. It makes no difference if other factors besides the plaintiff’s sex contributed to the decision or that the employer treated women as a group the same when compared to men as a group. A statutory violation occurs if an employer intentionally relies in part on an individual employee’s sex when deciding to discharge the employee. Because discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status requires an employer to intentionally treat individual employees differently because of their sex, an employer who intentionally penalizes an employee for being homosexual or transgender also violates Title VII.


Additional Information: 

Practice Pointer: If an employer takes adverse employment action, or retaliates, against an employee on the basis of the employee's homosexuality or transgender status that action can now support a discrimination claim based on sex under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.