Are LGBTQ+ Employees Protected Against Workplace Discrimination?
Sept. 20, 2021
Same-sex marriage was made legal throughout the United States in 2015, and LGBTQ+ Americans are starting to enjoy rights once denied to them in other areas of their life as well. One such right is the right to be free from discrimination in the workplace based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
In June 2020 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County. In this decision, the Court ruled that employers were prohibited from discriminating against workers based on a worker’s sexual orientation and gender identity per Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This ruling impacted federal and Georgia anti-discrimination laws.
What Was the Outcome of The Bostock Ruling?
The Bostock case stemmed from the situation of a gay many who was let go from his job as a county employee after playing in a gay softball league. He was joined by a case where a man was let go from his job after telling a customer he was gay, and a case where a woman who previously identified as male was let go from her job after telling her employer that she would present as female and would pursue gender reassignment surgery.
These plaintiffs claimed they were the victim of unlawful sex discrimination. The Supreme Court determined that Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination based on sex included discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
How Does Bostock Affect Georgia Law?
Georgia is one of 27 other states that as of June 2021 did not have laws protecting people from employment discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Georgia was, however, in the company of 48 other states that did have general laws on the books that prevent discrimination in the workplace based on either “sex” or “gender.” A handful of states adopted the Bostock ruling into state law, but Georgia currently is not one of them.
What this boils down to is under federal law employers covered by Title VII cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. States have the opportunity to make this protection stronger under their own laws that could cover more employers or more employees than Title VII does, but many states including Georgia have not yet done so.
Time will tell if Georgia law will expand the protections provided under Bostock. Until then, it is good to know that, thanks to Bostock, federal law offers some protections to LGBTQ+ individuals regarding discrimination in the workplace.