On Monday, June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court answered “yes” to the question of if Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination “because of sex” included one’s sexual orientation or identity as transgender.
Prior to this ruling, the law varied across the United States, with 26 states allowing employers to make employment decisions based upon sexual or gender identity. The Supreme Court made it clear that now it is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in all 50 states for an employer to discriminate against an employee based upon the employee’s sexual orientation or identity as a transgender individual. This was a 6-3 decision, with Justice Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, authoring the opinion. Writing for the Court, Justice Gorsuch explained, “homosexuality or transgender status are inextricably bound up with sex. Not because homosexuality or transgender status are related to sex in some vague sense or because discrimination on these bases has some disparate impact on one sex or another, but because to discriminate on these grounds requires an employer to intentionally treat individual employees differently because of their sex.”
This decision maintains the current law in Vermont and the Second Circuit, which previously had interpreted Title VII to include these protections.