Supreme Court Extends Federal Employment Protection to Gay and Transgender Workers

Ruling expands protections related to sex discrimination

Equal Justice

In a 6-3 ruling announced on Monday June 15, the Supreme Court has determined that federal employment protections extend to gay and transgender Americans. At issue in a trio of cases, two involving discrimination based on sexual orientation and a third on gender identity, was whether or not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibiting sex discrimination in the workplace included sexual orientation and gender identity. Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, religion, national origin, and sex. Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch held that “It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”

What does this mean for employers? It depends.  Several states, including New York, already have laws in place defining sexual orientation and gender identity as classes protected from employment discrimination. Other states have no protections in the law for gay or transgender individuals. Because of the rulings, laws, and interpretations already in place, most employers have been operating under the assumption that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is or could be found illegal.

As a result, the ruling should not require most employers to change their policies, but it is an opportunity to confirm their policies are up to date. For employers in New York, discrimination against individuals for sexual orientation or gender identity must be covered by the annual anti-harassment training for all employees.

If you have questions contact HR One.