In one of the most significant Supreme Court cases for Florida employers in many years, the U.S. Supreme Court held by a 6-3 margin that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (commonly known as “Title VII”) protects gay and transgender individuals from discrimination in the workplace. In the anxiously anticipated decision, which is a consolidation of three cases, the Court held in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination because of an individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity. While the decision only addresses traditional claims of discrimination (plaintiffs were all fired from their jobs), employers should expect that the ruling will extend to claims of harassment as well. If you are a Florida employer, this decision likely means that you need to update, review, and discuss your employment policies with your employees.
Until recently, the lower courts that had ruled on the issue routinely held that Title VII’s protections did not extend to discrimination against individuals who had adverse actions taken against them merely because they were gay or transgender. In fact, one of the consolidated cases came from the Eleventh Circuit, which had cited a long-standing lower court precedent in rejecting the claim of a gay male who was fired from his job in Georgia solely because his employer learned that he was gay. Florida is part of the Eleventh Circuit, and so gays were not protected under Title VII’s coverage in Florida until today.