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US Supreme Court Rules It Is Illegal To Fire Employees For Being Gay Or Transgender

By Jonah A. Toleno, Partner of Shustak Reynolds & Partners, P.C. posted on Monday, June 29, 2020.

Jonah A. Toleno

Jonah A. Toleno

Of Counsel

Location: San Diego, California
Phone: (619) 696-9500 (Ext. 104)
Direct: (619) 501-6483
Email: [email protected]

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia that it is illegal for employers to fire employees solely for being gay or transgender. The Court’s ruling, a 6-3 decision, addresses three cases simultaneously: Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia; Altitude Express, Inc., et al. v. Zarda et al., and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission et al., all of which involved an employer terminating “a long-time employee simply for being homosexual or transgender.” The opinion, authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, grants federal protection to gay and transgender employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.of 1964. The Court summarized its decision, in part:

An employer violates Title VII when it intentionally fires an individual employee based in part on sex. It makes no difference if other factors besides the plaintiff’s sex contributed to the decision or that the employer treated women as a group the same when compared to men as a group. A statutory violation occurs if an employer intentionally relies in part on an individual employee’s sex when deciding to discharge the employee. Because discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status requires an employer to intentionally treat individual employees differently because of their sex, an employer who intentionally penalizes an employee for being homosexual or transgender also violates Title VII. There is no escaping the role intent plays: Just as sex is necessarily a but-for cause when an employer discriminates against homosexual or transgender employees, an employer who discriminates on these grounds inescapably intends to rely on sex in its decisionmaking.

The decision is being hailed by many as a landmark decision, primarily since several states’ laws permitted employers to terminate employees on the basis of their gender identity and/or sexual preference, until the Court’s ruling. Employers throughout the United States now should take note of the Bostock case and ensure their policies and procedures, particularly those relating to termination, comport with the Supreme Court’s holdings. Our firm regularly represents individuals and firms in employment matters in the areas of securities and financial services, including discrimination and wrongful termination claims. If you have a situation you’d like to discuss with us, give us a call at (619) 696-9500 or look us up at  

Partner Jonah A. Toleno is based in our San Diego, California office. She practices in securities and financial services law, including employment law. She acts as trial counsel and outside corporate counsel for numerous financial, business, and individual clients. She can be reached at (619) 696-9500 or [email protected] with questions.


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