Bostock v. Clayton County, GA / Zarda v. Altitude Express / RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes Inc v. EEOC

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Status: Open
Landmark Case
United States Supreme Court
Issues: Anti-LGBT Rulings, Laws and Amendments, Employment and Rights in the Workplace

The Supreme Court has held oral arguments in three cases that address whether discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.

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The three cases include:

  • Altitude Express v. Zarda, a New York case where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in favor of the estate of a skydiving instructor who was fired because he was gay.
  • Bostock v. Clayton County, where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled against a Clayton County, Georgia, child welfare services coordinator fired when his employer discovered he was gay.
  • R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, a Michigan case brought by the ACLU and ACLU of Michigan where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of a transgender woman fired from her job as a funeral director when she informed her boss she intended to transition.

Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief and argued the Zarda case before the full Second Circuit in September 2017. Lambda Legal also filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the Georgia and Michigan cases.

In recent years, an increasing number of courts have recognized that the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination also reaches claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but there remains a split among courts across the country. The U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the Seventh Circuit both convened en banc (meaning all active judges, not just a three court panel) to reconsider prior decisions holding against coverage, and in both cases, the courts agreed that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.

Lambda Legal has been at the center of this work for years, filing briefs in three cases at the Supreme Court in 2019 and securing a victory in 2017 in the landmark Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College case before the full Seventh Circuit — the first federal Court of Appeals to rule that workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation violates federal civil rights law. Also in 2017, Lambda Legal argued as amicus in Zarda v. Altitude Express before the full Second Circuit. Lambda Legal further served as counsel of record in Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital in the Eleventh Circuit, and won a landmark victory on behalf of a Georgia state employee who was fired for being transgender in Glenn v. Brumby, also in the Eleventh Circuit. Three of Lambda Legal’s successful efforts in 2014, in federal courts in Seattle, Chicago, and Washington D.C., were cited by the EEOC in Baldwin v. Foxx.

Click here to learn more about Lambda Legal’s work on employment protections.