The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 15 2020 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The decision, in favor of plaintiffs in Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, is a major win in the ongoing struggle for LGBTQ equality. It is particularly significant for LGBTQ persons of color, who are the most likely to experience employment discrimination.
In July 2019, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) joined the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and 56 of the nation’s premier civil rights organizations in an amicus brief urging the Court to recognize that workplace anti-discrimination protections in Title VII apply to LGBTQ individuals.
“Title VII is designed to ensure that Americans have a fair opportunity to participate in the workplace free from discrimination,” said LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill. “Rampant employment discrimination against African Americans was the primary reason for the law’s enactment, but it is well-established Title VII protects against disparate treatment based on other characteristics including sex, national origin, and religion. Today’s decision confirms what is clear from the spirit and text of the law: LGBTQ persons, like all other Americans, have the right to equal dignity and opportunity at work.
“We are particularly gratified that the Court relied on an LDF case, Phillips v. Martin Marietta, in which in 1971 LDF successfully vindicated the employment rights of a woman who was denied a job because she had school-age children by an employer who routinely hired men with young children.”
“The Court’s decision is a momentous one,” said LDF Director of Litigation Sam Spital. “Workplace discrimination against LGBTQ persons, especially LGBTQ persons of color, remains all too common. Today’s decision makes clear that such discrimination violates federal law. LDF is committed to ensuring this decision is enforced, and to removing obstacles that prevent employees of all backgrounds from having a fair chance at achieving economic opportunities.”
Read the Supreme Court’s decision here.
Read the joint amicus brief filed in July 2019 here.