On Monday, June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court issued its watershed decision in the consolidated cases captioned Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, reversing the decision of the Eleventh Circuit and recognizing for the first time that sexual orientation and transgender status are protected from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The 6-3 decision penned by Justice Neil Gorsuch joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, has the enormous potential to impact not only traditional employment law, but other statutes that incorporate notions of “sex” as a class entitled to protection. The anticipated impact of this decision will be explored in future alerts.
The decision resolves a circuit split that had developed in the last few years over whether the plain language of Title VII prohibiting discrimination “on the basis of … sex” includes discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This split emerged after two federal circuits rejected previously settled case law that the plain language of Title VII’s prohibition of “sex” discrimination did not encompass discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity.