U.S. Supreme Court Expands Definition of Sex Discrimination

Federal law has prohibited sex discrimination in employment for over fifty-six years. But, does “sex” mean homosexuality and transgender status? Consider the following…

Federal law…

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) made it unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against any individual because of the individual’s sex. For many years, the term “sex” was interpreted to mean birth gender—not sexual preference or orientation. Some federal authorities broadened the meaning of “sex” to include homosexuality and transgender status; others adhered to the narrower interpretation.

The case…

Three employers each fired an employee for being homosexual or transgender. Each employee sued, alleging sex discrimination under Title VII. While the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the suit could be dismissed, the Second and Sixth Courts of Appeals allowed the claims to proceed. The United States Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals to resolve the split and, ultimately, ruled in favor of the employees. The Supreme Court held that, when an employer discriminates on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status, it is discriminating based upon “sex” and, accordingly, violates Title VII.

Impact on New Jersey employers…

What impact will this ruling have on New Jersey employers? Well, actually, probably very little. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination has prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status for many years. Thus, substantively, the ruling should not have significant impact on the operation of businesses in New Jersey. That said, employers should review their policies and practices to ensure they meet the procedural requirements of Title VII.


The Supreme Court’s ruling should not have significant operational impact on New Jersey employers. Nevertheless, they need to recognize that their employees now have both federal and state law protection against discrimination on the basis of homosexuality and transgender status. Please feel free to contact me for more information about employment practices or the case, Bostock v. Clayton County.

Barry F. Gartenberg, L.L.C.
Attorney at Law
505 Morris Avenue, Suite 102
Springfield, New Jersey 07081

DISCLAIMER: This BLOG post is provided solely for the general interest of the reader. It is not legal advice or opinion. Legal advice and opinion are provided by the firm only upon engagement with respect to specific factual situations.