An issue that has been long-pegged for Supreme Court review — whether sexual orientation and transgender status are federally protected from discrimination — is set for argument next term.
On April 22, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear three cases in which plaintiffs claimed their former employers fired them because of their LGBTQ status. Two of the cases involve employees claiming discrimination based on their sexual orientation — which the court consolidated — and one involves a discrimination claim based on the plaintiff being transgender. All three plaintiffs argue that the prohibition on sex-based discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers LGBTQ discrimination.
Even if the Supreme Court were to expand Title VII’s workplace protections through these cases, it would have limited impact on employers in Colorado, who have long been subject to the state’s own LGBTQ antidiscrimination law.
In the next term, the court will hear oral arguments in Altitude Express v. Zarda, in which a former skydiving instructor alleged his employer fired him for being gay. The district court dismissed his Title VII claim, but the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals revived it, reasoning that discrimination based on sexual orientation falls under sex discrimination.
The court will consolidate arguments in Altitude Express with Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which involves a former county court administrator with similar claims. In that case, the 11th Circuit took a more limited view of Title VII and upheld the district court’s dismissal of Bostock’s claim.