Employers cannot fire employees for their sexual orientation or gender identity, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 15.

In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that a landmark federal law prohibiting workplace discrimination protects LGBTQ employees from being fired due to their sexual orientation.

The court's majority opinion noted that "an employer who fires an individual for being gay or transgender violates Title VII," the landmark federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, or national origin.

Conservative Justices John Roberts and Neil Gorsuch sided with the court's four liberal justices in the ruling on separate lawsuits filed by two gay men and a transgender woman, all of whom alleged discrimination after losing their jobs.

"An employer who fires an individual for merely being gay or transgender defies the law."

Justice Neil Gorsuch

"Judges are not free to overlook plain statutory commands on the strength of nothing more than suppositions about intentions or guesswork about expectations," Gorsuch wrote for the majority.

"In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee's sex when deciding to fire that employee.

"We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual for merely being gay or transgender defies the law."

Connecticut Impact

The Trump administration opposed the LGBTQ workers' claims, a change from the previous administration, which supported the plaintiffs.

There are an estimated eight million LGBTQ employees in the U.S. workforce.

"The ruling will not impact Connecticut employers' decision making," CBIA's Mark Soycher said, noting that the has some of the nation's oldest statutory protections against workplace discrimination.

Connecticut enacted laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in 1991, and gender identity or expression in 2011, Soycher said.

But the decision will expand options for plaintiffs in Connecticut to file complaints in federal court, and it will provide protections for employees in 28 states that lack comprehensive measures against employment discrimination.

Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas dissented.

"Even as understood today, the concept of discrimination because of 'sex' is different from discrimination because of 'sexual orientation' or 'gender identity,'" Alito wrote for the minority.


For more information, contact CBIA's Mark Soycher (860.244.1900) | @HRHotline