U.S. SUPREME COURT EXPANDS FEDERAL ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAWS

On June 15, 2020, in a case entitled Bostock v. Clayton County, the United States. Supreme Court ruled that an employer who fires an individual for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Gerald Bostock, a gay man working as a county employee, began participating in a gay softball league and was ultimately fired for “conduct unbecoming of [county] employees.” Aimee Stephens, who presented as male when she was hired, was fired by her employer when she informed them she would be transitioning to a woman. Each employee sued in federal court alleging sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The question for the Supreme Court involved whether discrimination against an employee because of sexual orientation constitutes prohibited employment discrimination “on the basis of sex” within the meaning of the Civil Rights Act. The court held that an employer who fires an individual for being gay or transgender fires that person for traits or actions which would not have been questioned in members of a different sex. Thus, sex plays a necessary role in that decision, which is what Title VII forbids.

The Minnesota Human Rights Act already classifies LGBT individuals as a protected class and prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. While the Bostock case may not significantly change the law in Minnesota, it is a landmark decision at the federal level and will provide protection to LGBT individuals in a number of other states.

If you have questions about this decision, its impact on your employment practices, or employment law generally, please contact one of our employment law attorneys.

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