On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Title VII) protects members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning) community against workplace discrimination based on sex in the Bostock v. Clayton County case. Accordingly, school district officials, employees, and representatives should familiarize themselves with the updated protections to ensure compliance.
Title VII and the Civil Rights Act
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is a federal law that provides protection(s) from employment discrimination. Specifically, this law prohibits discrimination in the recruiting, hiring, and other employment actions on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion. Furthermore, the protections within Title VII apply to employers in both private and public sectors that have 15 or more employees – including school districts. Employment policies and practices may be discriminatory under Title VII if they are based on disparate treatment or disparate impact, which means that if an employment practice or policy causes workplace discrimination against a protected class within Title VII, then the policy may still be deemed to be a Title VII violation.
Bostock v. Clayton County
Bostock v. Clayton County deals with three related employment cases involving employers that allegedly fired long-time employees for being homosexual or transgender. SCOTUS combined all three cases into one decision and delivered a massive 33-page opinion discussing the existing protections that LGBTQ people have against employment discrimination and, specifically, how Title VII's ban on sex discrimination in the workplace protects against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
In each of the cases, the parties disagreed on whether sexual orientation and gender identity are covered under the ban against sex discrimination. Historically, there has been debate as to the applicability of Title VII protections in employment discrimination cases on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The decision of Bostock v. Clayton County provides clarity by objectively stating that Title VII does indeed protect employees from workplace sex discrimination. Specifically, SCOTUS held that, “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.”
What this means for School Districts
The SCOTUS opinion will have a long-term impact on employers who are subject to Title VII. Bostock v. Clayton provides clarity for any confusion as to the applicability of Title VII protections in employment discrimination cases on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Accordingly, it is extremely important for school district officials to ensure that their current policies and employment procedures adhere to these protections. Any current policies and procedures that do not effectively incorporate appropriate protections against sex discrimination in the workplace should be updated and modified to comply with Title VII and this ruling.
If you have any questions about this legal alert or the Title VII implications from this SCOTUS decision, please feel free to contact White & Story.