LGBTQ Employment Rights

LGBTQ Employment Rights

In this rapidly-evolving area of employment law, new court decisions can have a dramatic impact on an employee’s rights and an employer’s obligations.  On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination.  In Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the Supreme Court recognized Title VII’s admonition that an employer may not discriminate against any individual because of that person’s sex, and held that discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status requires an employer to treat employees differently because of their sex.

The Court gave two examples to illustrate this conclusion.  If a male and a female employee are both attracted to men, but the employer only fires the man, the decision is because of the man’s sex.  If there are two female employees, but the employer only fires the one assigned male at birth, this too is because of sex.

The Bostock decision goes far beyond merely making it illegal to fire an employee because he or she is gay.  In addition to protections relating to hiring, firing, and discipline, Title VII also extends to training, promotion, leaves of absence and other “terms and conditions” of employment.  Additionally, harassment based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity now is illegal under Title VII.  This includes harassment by supervisors or even co-workers in certain circumstances.  Finally, as a result of the Bostock decision, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an LGBTQ employee who exercises rights that are protected by Title VII.  As an example, an employer may not take adverse action against an employee who complains about unfair treatment based on the employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

For employers in states like Ohio, that previously had no state law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, their employees now will have such protection under federal law, provided that the employer meets the 15 or more employee standard for Title VII coverage.

The “Discrimination” and “Harassment” pages of this website offer additional information that now will pertain to Title VII claims based on homosexuality or transgender status.  But employers and employees alike can call Lynn Pundzak at 513-564-9999 to learn more about recent advancements in this particular field of employment law.