Title VII, sexual orientation and transgender status

Violations of civil rights

Title VII, sexual orientation, and transgender status

On October 8, 2019, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument on the question of whether Title VII bars discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and/or transgender status.

The Court will take up three cases. Those are:

  • Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc., in which Zarda claimed he was fired because of his sexual orientation. The Second Circuit held that such a claim was covered by Title VII.
  • Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. Like Zarda, Bostock claimed that he was fired because he was gay. The Eleventh Circuit ruled, however, that Title VII did not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. EEOC. For most of her employment at the Funeral Home, Stephens lived and presented as a man. Shortly after she informed the Funeral Home’s owner and operator that she intended to transition from male to female, she was terminated. The Sixth Circuit side with Stephens and held that such a termination violated Title VII.

The essential question raised by the three cases is whether Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination “on the basis of sex” extends to sexual orientation and transgender status.

There is a split of authority among the Circuit Courts, and the Supreme Court’s ruling should, in the near future, resolve the issues.

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