Dancing with the Supremes and Wow, They Can Really Dance: Title VII Prohibits Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation or Transgender Status

rasha-zeyadehThis month the Supreme Court of the United States of America handed down one of the most long-awaited decisions of the term. On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court held that discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status constitutes discrimination “because of … sex” Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that protects employees and job applicants against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, and religion. Before Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law, an employer could reject a job applicant or discriminate against an employee based on the applicant or employee’s race, color, national origin, religion, or sex. In fact, an employer could reject a job applicant or fire an employee or in some other way discriminate against that person because they were black or white, Muslim or Christian, a man or a woman, or German or Mexican, and it would be completely legal.

Finally, however, in 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was passed, making discrimination on the basis of an individual’s race, color, national origin, religion, or sex illegal.  For example, Title VII prohibits an employer from making hiring decisions based on a job applicant’s race, color, national origin, sex, or religion; refusing to promote an employee or firing an employee based on the employee’s race, color, national origin, religion, or sex;  using an employee’s race, color, national origin, religion or sex to determine the employee’s pay, fringe benefits, retirement plan, or disability leave; and harassing an employee because of the employee’s race, color, national origin, religion, or sex.

Fifty-seven years after Title VII was passed, on June 15, 2020, in a historic ruling delivered during Pride Month, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This ruling provides nation-wide protection for LGBTQ employees, rather than the patchwork of state and local laws that currently unsuccessfully prohibit LGBTQ discrimination. This is a huge victory for LGBTQ equality, resulting from decades of advocacy.

Still, just because a law has been passed and is in place, it does not mean employers will actually adhere to the law. Fifty-five years after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) received nearly 73,000 individual complaints of discrimination. Hence, if your employer discriminates against you based on your sexual orientation or gender identity, you should file a complaint of discrimination with the EEOC. Note that you must file your complaint within 300 days from the date on which the discrimination occurred.

As an employee civil rights lawyer, I understand the difficulty of navigating the legal system while battling discrimination at the workplace.  If you have been subjected to discrimination based on your sexual orientation or gender identity and would like to speak to an attorney about your claims and rights, please contact a Dallas Employment Attorney to schedule a consultation. I would be glad to listen to your story, discuss any protections the law affords you, answer your questions, and explain any legal recourse available to you.

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