Supreme Court rules that employers cannot discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation

On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a major landmark ruling that holds that Title VII prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace.  Finally, now gay and transgender employees may pursue sex discrimination claims. The full decision (Bostock v. Clayton County) can be accessed here – Bostock decision.

Notable quotes from the decision:

“An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.”

“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.”

“An employer who intentionally fires an individual homosexual or transgender employee in part because of that individual’s sex violates the law even if the employer is willing to subject all male and female homosexual or transgender employees to the same rule.” 

“By intentionally setting out a rule that makes hiring turn on sex, the employer violates the law, whatever he might know or not know about individual applicants.”

“So an employer who fires a woman, Hannah, because she is insufficiently feminine and also fires a man, Bob, for being insufficiently masculine may treat men and women as groups more or less equally.  But in both cases the employer fires an individual in part because of sex.  Instead of avoiding Title VII exposure, this employer doubles it.” 

“The statute’s message for our cases is equally simple and momentous: An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions.  That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”

“When it comes to statutory interpretation, our role is limited to applying the law’s demands as faithfully as we can in the cases that come before us.  As judges we possess no special expertise or authority to declare for ourselves what a self­-governing people should consider just or wise.  And the same judicial humility that requires us to refrain from adding to statutes requires us to refrain from diminishing them.”