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By now, you have glanced at the headlines about the Supreme Court’s Bostock v. Clayton County ruling. We wanted to take a moment to spend some time explaining why the ruling was important and how it may impact workers.
The Bostock decision was the result of three consolidated cases with similar elements. Each had a long-term employee who was terminated when knowledge of their sexual identify became known. Judge Gorsuch authored the 6-3 opinion granting the employees protection under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents discrimination based on several categories of groups: one being sex.
While this decision does address sex discrimination, it has much more. This ruling further narrows the ability of the employer to discriminate against workers. In the majority decision, much was spent on the “but for” component of the argument. Why is this important? Employers, who engage in illegal discriminatory behavior, use nebulous excuses for termination to disguise their behavior and actions. This is known as pretext. The Bostock decision eliminates the defense of other excuses for the termination to get the discrimination claim dismissed. If sex, race, religion, or any other protected classification was a determining factor behind the termination, the case is more likely to proceed to trial and an employee likely to prevail.
Discrimination harms everyone in society. By making it more difficult to mask these illegal actions, the better it is for employees that are subject to it. It enables them a viable avenue for legal protection and exposure. By bringing to light and punishing these behaviors, society is moved in a better direction.
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