June 15, 2020 (WASHINGTON INSIDER ALERT) - On June 15, the Supreme Court ruled that a key federal civil rights law, Title VII, prohibits employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of their sexual orientation, establishing a new nationwide protection for LGBT workers.
In the 6-3 decision, Justice Neil Gorsuch was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and four more liberal justices on the court in issuing the majority opinion, stating that the language of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 barring workplace discrimination based on “sex" should be interpreted to cover sexual orientation.
Title VII of the 1964 law broadly prohibits employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of an employee’s sex and other protected traits. During the Obama Administration, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) took the position that Title VII’s bar on discrimination based on sex also forbids employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. The Trump Administration countered the EEOC's views, urging the Supreme Court to reject arguments that the 1964 law covers discrimination protections for sexual orientation.
The Supreme Court’s decision comes after Congress has failed for decades to pass legislation that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected traits under the Civil Rights Act, and as nearly half of U.S. states lack any legal protections for LGBT workers against discrimination on account of such traits. The decision will guarantee nationwide protections for LGBT workers over any state laws and in the absence of any federal legislation.
CUPA-HR has long supported legislative efforts to bar discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation and welcomes the court’s decision.