In 2013, Gerald Bostock was in charge of the Clayton County, Georgia CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program, which trained and assigned volunteers to represent children who had experienced abuse or neglect in court proceedings. He loved his job, won awards at work and got great reviews…
Until he joined the Hotlanta Softball League, a local gay softball league. After promoting the league at work, he began receiving negative comments about his sexuality, with some colleagues using slurs and disparaging him and his work. Bostock was eventually fired for conduct unbecoming an employee – all because he was gay and chose to make that known at work. Bostock sued Clayton County, Georgia and – along with two similar cases - the case went all the way to the Supreme Court.
On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court issued a historic ruling stating that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “because of sex,” includes LGBT+ employees. Prior to the decision, Title VII prohibited discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion and sex. The decision adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the classifications protected by the law.
This means that in addition to hiring, firing and discipline decisions, Title VII also prohibits discrimination around the “terms and conditions” of employment, which includes training, promotion, leaves of absence, and more.
The Title VII ruling also prohibits workplace harassment based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
And the Supreme Court decision makes it illegal to retaliate against employees that exercise these rights.
While 22 states and DC already had laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Texas did not have such a law. But the Supreme Court ruling now provides federal protections to employees in Texas - provided that the employer meets the 15 or more employee standard for Title VII coverage.
But what does this mean for your business? What do you need to do to make sure that you and your company are in compliance with this Supreme Court ruling?
- Talk with your employees and explain the new ruling and what it means, asking for questions and discussion if possible. This open communication will let your employees know that you encourage diversity, discourage discrimination, and are fostering a healthy workplace.
- It is time to review and potentially update your policies and procedures to ensure that gay and transgender individuals are fully covered by your non-discrimination and anti-harassment statements. (And if you do not yet have a non-discrimination statement, now is the time to develop one!)
- Update your employee handbook and information to ensure that this ruling and your revised policies/procedures are integrated into your workplace practices.
- Engage with the SAFE Institute to provide your managers and employees with training to decrease sexual harassment and build a safer, healthier workplace; we have many in person and virtual options!
This ruling and its workplace implications provide another opportunity for organization leaders to have open dialogue and create a workplace that is welcoming and productive for all employees.
The SAFE Institute offers sexual harassment prevention training, which has always incorporated discrimination and harassment of LGBTQIA+ individuals, but which will now further explicitly address these new regulations. For more information, visit safeinstitute.org.