On June 15th, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the United States Supreme Court held Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against employees based on LGBT status. Most employers are familiar with Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on sex to mean an employer cannot discriminate against an employee based on gender (i.e. not hiring someone because they are female) or engage in or condone sexual harassment.
In Bostock, Court determined in addition to biological sex, the word “sex” as used in Title VII extends to transgendered and homosexual individuals because by taking into account someone’s LGBT status, the employer is either penalizing someone for being attracted to the same sex or penalizing someone because they identify with a different sex than they were identified with at birth.
Based on this ruling, employees may now file EEOC complaints and lawsuits at the state or federal level against their employers for discrimination or harassment based on LGBT status. Employment decisions and behavior previously legally acceptable may now subject employers to liability.
Employers should review their employee handbooks, policies, and procedures to ensure there are both (1) policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment based on the new definition of sex and (2) policies for employees to report allegations of discrimination and harassment to management.
Our firm is available to discuss any questions employers may have and has presented sexual harassment and discrimination workshops at employee worksites for our clients.