“An employer who fires an employee merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” – Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch

The Supreme Court kicked off Pride Month 2020 in a meaningful way.  On June 15, 2020, the Court issued the landmark holding of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia.  The Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act clearly protects employees from discriminatory acts and workplace harassment based on the employee’s sexual orientation or transgender identity.

Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, consolidated three cases brought to the Court’s attention.  Gerald Bostock was fired for what his employer regarded as “unbecoming” conduct when he participated in a gay recreational softball league.  Donald Zarda was fired only days after he simply mentioned that he was gay.  A third employee, Aimee Stephens, presented as a male when she applied for her job.  She was fired after she later informed her employer of her decision to transition and her intent to “live and work full-time as a woman.”  The Court ultimately ruled that each respective employer was in violation of the law by wrongfully discharging Bostock, Zarda, and Stephens based on his or her sexual orientation or transgender identity.

Previously, case law viewed Title VII’s prohibition of sex-based discrimination as covering only the basic distinction between male and female.  Over the years, the Court has expanded the definition of “sex discrimination” to cover activities such a “sex-stereotyping,” when an employee discriminates against an employee for his or her failure to dress or act like the “typical” male or female.  Though some courts regarded sex discrimination more broadly, other continued to deny members of the LGBTQi+ community protection under Title VII.

Formerly, in states like Alabama, this “gender non-conformity” loophole was the only avenue for recovery and was not always a successful argument. Now, the Supreme Court’s ruling will hold all employers to the same standard: “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 . . . exactly what Title VII forbids.”  This new standard will afford stronger protections to Alabama employees identifying as a member of the LGBTQi+ community.

Our Birmingham, Alabama employment law firm has handled a number of discrimination cases throughout the State of Alabama. If you feel you may have suffered discrimination in the workplace on the basis of your sexual orientation or gender identity please contact us at (205) 588-0699 for a free consultation to discuss your potential case.

Leave a Reply