On Monday, June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) prohibits employers from discharging or taking other adverse action against an employee because the employee is gay or transgender. This is a landmark decision as more than half the states did not recognize such protections.
At the outset of its opinion, the Court’s majority stated, “an employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex.” The Court reached its holding based on the plain meaning of Title VII’s “because of sex” language. Specifically, the Court reasoned when an employer intentionally treats an employee differently because of the employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity, the employer is discriminating “because of sex.” In reaching its conclusion in this manner, the Court rejected the arguments from the employers and the Court’s minority that Title VII as written “does not prohibit employment discrimination because of sexual orientation.”
Although this decision will have a significant impact nationally, it will have a minimal effect on Connecticut employers. Connecticut’s antidiscrimination laws have protected employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression for many years. Employers should review their anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies to ensure that they specifically prohibit discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.