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Title VII Prohibits Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

On June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as discrimination “on the basis of sex.” This ruling means that sexual orientation/preference, gender identification, and LGBTQ status are now clearly protected classifications under federal law and that it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of that person’s sexual orientation, sexual preference, gender identification, or LGBTQ status. If a person alleges discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation/preference, gender identification, or LGBTQ status, those allegations can be addressed in court in the same manner as alleged discrimination of the basis of race, sex, age, or disability.

For employers in those circuits or jurisdictions that previously excluded either sexual orientation or gender identity from the scope of Title VII’s protections (such as the Eleventh Circuit which includes Alabama, Florida, and Georgia), now is a good time to revisit existing handbooks and training materials to ensure that management is aware of Title VII’s application to sexual orientation and gender identity. Employers would be well-advised to closely examine written policies and unwritten practices to see if any could be considered discriminatory against employees or others who may be covered by this expansion of protections.

Please contact the firm’s labor and employment attorney Bill Lancaster if you have any questions.

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