Employees from Georgia, New York, and Michigan who were fired for being LGBTQ+ filed lawsuits against their employers arguing that their termination violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination in employment based upon race, sex, color, or nationality. The League and 57 other civil rights organizations filed an amicus brief supporting the employees.
Plaintiffs in three separate cases filed lawsuits alleging their termination from employment for being LGBTQ+ violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Plaintiffs Gerald Bostock and Donald Zarda were fired for being gay men. Plaintiff Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman, was fired for presenting as female.
The League, together with 57 other civil rights organizations, filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs. The amicus brief was lead by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Orrick, Herrington, and Sutcliffe LLP. Our amicus brief argued that the term “sex” under the Civil Rights Act also included sexual orientation. Amici argued that since the Act’s goal was to root out discrimination in employment and prevent disparate treatment based upon race, sex, or other protected characteristics, when considering the application of the Act to LGBTQ+ individuals, the Court only need ask whether the employee’s treatment was because they are member of the LGBTQ+ community. Our brief further argued that since the Act banned discrimination “because of” protected characteristics, including sex, Title VII also applied to disparate treatment of LGBTQ+ employees because Plaintiffs Zarda and Bostock would not have been fired if they were women attracted to men, and had Plaintiff Stephens been identified as female at birth, she would not have been fired for living openly as a woman.
The Court ruled that Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination also applies to LGBTQ+ employees, stating that when employers discriminate against such employees, they are applying a sex-based classification in violation of the law, as same-sex attraction between homosexual men or women, or a transgender person’s identification as a gender different from the one assigned at birth, is inextricably linked to an employee’s sex.
Plaintiff Donald Zarda files lawsuit for wrongful termination
Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, sues his employer, Altitude Express Inc., alleging he was fired for being gay, and that his termination constituted sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Plaintiff Donald Zarda files amended complaint
EEOC files complaint on behalf of Aimee Stephens
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sues defendant Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., on behalf of Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman. Ms. Stephens was terminated after she told her employer she was transitioning. The EEOC asserted the termination violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
District Court grants summary judgment on Mr. Zarda’s Title VII claim
The New York district court grants the defendant’s request for summary judgment on Mr. Zarda’s Title VII claim, ruling that he failed to prove gender stereotyping under Title VII. Mr. Zarda was killed in a skydiving accident soon after, and his estate appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Plaintiff Gerald Bostock files lawsuit for wrongful termination
Gerald Bostock, an employee of Clayton County, Georgia, sues for wrongful termination, alleging he was falsely accused of mishandling public funds, to justify his firing for being gay. Bostock asserted this violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
District Court grants summary judgment for the defendants against Mrs. Stephens’ lawsuit
The Michigan district court finds that Ms. Stephens’ former employer was entitled to an exemption from Title VII under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act due to its owners’ religious beliefs.
District Court dismisses Mr. Bostock’s lawsuit
The district court dismisses Mr. Bostock’s lawsuit, stating Title VII did not include sexual orientation in its definition of sex discrimination.
Sixth Circuit reverses district court’s Grant of Summary Judgment to Harris Funeral Homes, Inc.
The Court of Appeals finds that the defendant fired Ms. Stephens because of her non-conformance with its gender stereotypes and her transgender and transitioning status.
Eleventh Circuit affirms district court’s dismissal of Mr. Bostock’s lawsuit
The Court of Appeals rules that previous precedent in the Eleventh Circuit, which cannot be overturned absent a Supreme Court or en banc ruling, does not extend Title VII to protect sexual orientation.
Second Circuit reverses district court’s ruling against Mr. Zarda
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reverses the grant of summary judgment to the defendants, ruling Mr. Zarda’s termination for his sexual orientation violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
US Supreme Court grants certiorari and consolidates all three cases
The League files amicus brief
The League joins an amicus brief led by the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, along with 57 other civil rights organizations, urging the Supreme Court to rule Title VII protects against discrimination for sexual orientation.
US Supreme Court hears oral argument
US Supreme Court issues ruling
The Court rules that the definition of discrimination on the grounds of sex also includes discrimination based on sexual orientation; accordingly, Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation.