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Trevor Cloak of Cozen O'Connor. Trevor Cloak of Cozen O’Connor.

In its landmark June 15 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, Case No. 17-1618, 590 U.S. _____ (2020), the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, held that an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  slip op. at 2; see also id., at p. 9 (“an individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions”). In so doing, the court sent a clear message to all:  discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender alone is unlawful. But more than this, the court reinforced the scope of Title VII, suggesting that in light of the law’s original, extensive “because of” language, which implicates a but-for causal relationship, an employer cannot avoid liability under this law simply by alleging that some additional factor, in addition to a protected factor, formed the basis of the employer’s decision to fire an employee. (“So long as the plaintiff’s sex was one but-for cause of that decision, that is enough to trigger the law”). While  this surprise opinion from the court contains language, albeit in dicta, that some could use to inappropriately justify discriminatory practices in the workplace, we should take the opinion at face value and strive to meet or exceed the requirements of the law when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

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