Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that settles the greatly contested issue of whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act’s protection against discrimination on the basis of sex, includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The ruling stems from three cases, Altitude Express Inc. v. Zarda, Barstock v. Clayton County, Georgia, in which the plaintiffs were terminated following their employer learning that each were gay, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where the plaintiff was terminated after she informed her employer that she was going to undergo gender reassignment surgery.
The decision, which was written by Judge Gorsuch essentially states that one cannot discriminate against an individual on the basis of their being gay or transgender and not offend Title VII’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination. This ruling settles years of contradictory administrative interpretations and enforcement of sex-based discrimination under Title VII. While most states have settled this issue by enacting state-level prohibitions on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, this definitively ensures the protections of entire classes of individuals who were previously unprotected by the law.
Employer are encouraged to revisit all policies, procedures, and practices to ensure that they are compliant with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. As always, members are encouraged to contact the American Ambulance Association to obtain compliance assistance.