Title VII Expanded to Protect Sexual Orientation

Title VII Expanded to Protect Sexual Orientation

by Onyinyechi Muilenburg

In a landmark decision, on Monday, June 15, 2020, the United States Supreme Court ruled that individuals cannot be discriminated or retaliated against based on sexual orientation. The 6-3 holding was authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, and he was joined by Chief Justice Roberts as well as Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan.

Gorsuch wrote,

“An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions. That is because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”

By this ruling, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 expands protected class status under sex/gender to include one’s sexual orientation.

Gorsuch further wrote,

“Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to the particular result. Likely, they weren’t thinking about many of the Act’s consequences that have become apparent over the years, including its prohibition against discrimination on the basis of motherhood or its ban on the sexual harassment of male employees. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands.”

While many states and local municipalities have enacted legislation to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation, there was no federal protection. Employers across the country must now extend the same protections under Title VII to LGBT workers. This means that employers must update their policies and procedures and ensure their employees are made aware of the changes and ensure they abide by them.


No information in this article is intended to constitute legal advice. For specific legal advice, please contact an attorney.

If you have any questions or would like more information about labor & employment, please contact Derek Flynn at 713.220.9197 or dflynn@hirschwest.com.