•  

  • Your People Professionals: Title VII Supreme Court Ruling

    The Supreme Court of the United States has recently ruled that employers may not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment. This decision affects all employers with 15 or more employees.

    The decision was a response to three separate cases, all of which were about employment discrimination based on “sex” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. There has been debate for years about the definition of sex under Title VII. Originally, many assumed that it meant only that men and women could not be treated differently, but over the years the Supreme Court has interpreted the definition to include certain characteristics or expectations related to sex. Previous decisions, however, had not yet provided a definitive answer as to whether sexual orientation and gender identity were protected—we now know the answer is “yes.”

    Several circuit courts of appeal had already ruled that sex included sexual orientation, gender identity, or both, and many states have their own civil rights laws to protect these characteristics in the context of employment (often at a lower employee count). Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces Title VII, has for years held the position that sex includes sexual orientation and gender identity, and has sued employers for discrimination based on that interpretation. 
    California has already has laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identification, but we do have clients with locations in the 28 states that had not yet done so.  As always, please work with your HR team before making any adverse decisions of employees to whom this may apply.