Thursday, June 03, 2021

Mountaineers Aging with Pride series: Landmark US Supreme Court decision protects rights of LGBTQ employees

Bostock v. Clayton County Who went to court and what happened?
What does it mean for WV?

Landmark Supreme Court decision protects rights of LGBTQ employees. On June 15th, 2020, The Supreme Court of the United States made a landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County Board of Commissioners.The Court heard a combination of three cases regarding employees being fired; two for their sexual orientation and one for their gender identity. The Court ruled that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employees were protected from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Act prohibits employers from “discriminat[ing] against any individual . . . because of because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin . . . .” It was decided that although gender and sexual orientation are not equivalent to sex, discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation cannot be done without a reliance on sex-based discrimination. Sexual orientation and gender identity do not have to be the only reason an employee is fired, they need only be part of the employer’s decision in order for the employer to have violated Title VII.

What does this mean for West Virginians? This decision may have wide ranging impacts for LGBTQ+ people, including those who call the Mountain State home. This particular provision applies to more than just firing employees. It prevents discrimination in hiring, compenation, terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. Now, employers with over 15 employees can be sued for discriminating against applicants and employees because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity. LGBTQ+ employees in West Virginia are protected from discrimination based on their gender and sexual orientation in cases where Title VII applies. So while our state human rights code does not explicitly list sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, these are now considered federally protected classes in employment.

contributed by Alexis Schneider, Public Interest Law Fellow at WVSLA

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