On June 15, 2020, the supreme court ruled that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans from being discriminated against by an employer because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a major victory for the LGBTQ community that will have an impact on employers today and in the years to come.

Title VII protects employees from being discriminated against based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In the majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch said “An employer who fired 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. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision; exactly what Title VII forbids.” This ruling expands sex discrimination to include discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

What does this mean for businesses?

Title VII applies to employers in both the private and public sectors that have 15 or more employees or those that engage in interstate commerce. This includes employment agencies, labor organizations, and the federal government. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is charged with enforcing Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This means that discrimination claims filed by an LGBTQ employee can be contested by business owners in the same manner that would any other Title VII claim.

It’s important to note that employers should always check that you comply with states and local laws. Many have laws against discrimination against LGBTQ employees that could apply to your organization.

This new ruling goes into effect immediately and employers need to review their policies, employee handbooks, and codes of conduct to reflect the new ruling. In addition, employees should also review their hiring, firing, promotion, and ongoing work processes to ensure compliance.

Things to look for in the future

This ruling leaves the door open for arguments by religious organizations for an exemption to Title VII protections for LGBTQ Americans. In the Supreme Court’s majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch said, “We are deeply concerned with preserving the promise of the free exercise of religion that is enshrined in our Constitution.” He said that how Title VII interacts with the free exercise of religion was not answered in the Bostock v Clayton County ruling and that it’s for future cases brought before the Supreme Court to answer.

Other issues not answered in the ruling are the issues of sex-segregated bathrooms, locker rooms, and dress codes. Concerning this point, Justice Neil Gorsuch said, “They say sex-segregated bathrooms, locker rooms, and dress codes will prove unsustainable after our decision today, but none of these other laws are before us; we have not had the benefit of adversarial testing about the meaning of their terms, and we do not prejudge any such question today.”

The Bostock v Clayton County ruling is a big victory regarding LGBTQ rights in the United States. For many organizations, this ruling means they need to review their current policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination; for others, it just reinforces their current policies. It’s always best practice to maintain and distribute your anti-discrimination policies, document employee-related decisions, and conduct accurate evaluations. To learn how you can work with XcelHR, you can email us or call us at (800) 776-0076.