MWH Law Group logo

Landmark decision – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, also covers sexual orientation and transgender status.

June 15, 2020
Julie Bittner

Today, the United States Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate because of sex, also covers sexual orientation and transgender status.

The holding was straightforward, “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.”

The opinion was written by President Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the four more liberal members of the Court, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan.

Gorsuch wrote, “An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.” Further, “Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.”

Twenty-one states have laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for both public and private employers.  Seven more states provide the protection for public employees. With today’s ruling, federal law now provides protection for LGBTQ employees throughout the rest of the United States.

The case involved three situations wherein the employer allegedly fired a long-time employee for being homosexual or transgender.

  • Gerald Bostock was allegedly terminated for conduct “unbecoming” a county employee shortly after he began participating in a gay recreational softball league;
  • Donald Zarda was allegedly terminated after he mentioned being gay;
  • Aimee Stephens was allegedly terminated from a Michigan funeral home two weeks after she told her employer she was transgender. She alleged her boss explained to her she was fired because she failed to follow the dress code.

With today’s ruling, it is imperative that you update all policies and procedures to ensure you are in compliance with this landmark decision.

This article is a publication of MWH Law Group LLP and is intended to provide general information regarding legal issues and developments to our clients and other friends. It should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or situations. For further information on your own situation, we encourage you to contact the author of the article or any other member of the firm.

© MWH Law Group LLP 2020. All rights reserved.


Julie T. Bittner
Julie T. Bittner
Partner – West Des Moines

1501 42nd St., Suite 465, West Des Moines, IA 50266
P: (515) 453-8509 / F: (515) 267-1408
Connect on LinkedIn  |  Download Attorney Biography