June 15, 2020

Mathew Lasky
Director of Communications, GLAAD

The Supreme Court of the United States: “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII”

New York, NY - Monday, June 15, 2020 - GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, today responded to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruling on LGBTQ workplace protections. In their ruling, SCOTUS stated: “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII.”

“The Supreme Court’s historic decision affirms what shouldn’t have even been a debate: LGBTQ Americans should be able to work without fear of losing jobs because of who they are. The decision  gives us hope that as a country we can unite for the common good and continue the fight for LGBTQ acceptance,” said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Especially at a time when the Trump Administration is rolling back the rights of transgender people and anti-transgender violence continues to plague our nation, this decision is a step towards affirming the dignity of transgender people, and all LGBTQ people.”

GLAAD also received the following statement from Gerald Bostock, the Plaintiff in Bostock v. Clayton Co., one of the three employment discrimination cases decided today:

“There are truly no words to describe just how elated I am,” said Bostock, a Georgia man who alleges he was fired from his job as a child welfare services coordinator after joining a gay recreational softball team. “When I was fired seven years ago, I was devastated. But this fight became about so much more than me. I am sincerely grateful to the Supreme Court, my attorneys, advocacy organizations like GLAAD, and every person who supported me on this journey.” Bostock continued, “Today, we can go to work without the fear of being fired for who we are and who we love. Yet, there is more work to be done. Discrimination has no place in this world, and I will not rest until we have equal rights for all.”

GLAAD recently released a tip sheet for media covering the SCOTUS decisions about LGBTQ workplace discrimination, which includes additional information about each of the cases, and the impact of each potential outcome on LGBTQ rights.

On October 8, 2019, The Supreme Court of the United States heard three cases that asked whether LGBTQ people are protected under federal nondiscrimination law, or whether employers have a right to discriminate. Two of the SCOTUS cases involved men who were fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation. In the case of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, Gerald Bobstock, who was a Welfare Services Coordinator for Clayton County Juvenile Court System, was terminated from his job for so-called “conduct unbecoming of its employees.” After Bostock joined an extra-curricular gay softball league, Bostock’s work colleagues made disparaging remarks about his sexual orientation in front of his supervisor, which led to an internal audit of his work and ultimate termination. In the case of Altitude Express v. Zarda, Donald Zarda, who was a gay man working for skydiving business on Long Island, New York, was immediately fired after he revealed he was LGBTQ during business hours – fitting a disturbing history of anti-LGBTQ encounters from the business. Zarda sued the business because of clear anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Zarda has passed away, but the case is being managed by his sister, Melissa Zarda, and former partner, Bill Moore.

The third case involved a woman who was fired from her job because of her gender identity. In the case of R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, Aimee Stephens, who worked as a funeral director at R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes in Garden City, Michigan, was fired after she informed the funeral home’s owner that she is transgender and planned to come to work as the woman she is. Aimee took her case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) where the agency sued the company on behalf of her. Stephens sadly passed away on May 12

In all three cases, the employers asked the Supreme Court to reverse the rulings of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and instead find that it is perfectly legal under federal law to fire workers because they are LGBTQ.

Data shows that public opinion supports LGBTQ Americans. A May 2019 Quinnipiac University Poll found that 92-percent of American voters believe employers should not fire someone for being LGBTQ. Americans also believe LGBTQ people already have such protections, with a June 2019 Reuters/Ipsos poll finding that only 23-percent of Americans realize that federal anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people do not already exist. The business community also wants these protections for LGBTQ Americans. In July 2019, more than 200 major companies submitted an amicus brief calling for the U.S. Supreme Court to protect LGBTQ employees from discrimination in the workplace.

Today, LGBTQ Americans lack explicit workplace protections in over half of U.S. states. According to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), just 22 states and the District of Columbia explicitly protect LGBTQ employees from discrimination in the workplace, with 21 states and D.C. protecting transgender Americans. Two states (Michigan and Pennsylvania) do not have explicit protections, but human and civil rights commissions have stated that the state’s existing protections against sex discrimination include protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity.

In August 2019, the Trump Administration submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court opposing workplace protections for LGBTQ Americans. This opposition is just one of the 150 anti-LGBTQ attacks President Trump has made against LGBTQ Americans since taking office in 2017.