On Monday, June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that "an employer who fired an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law," according to Justice Neil M. Gorsuch. This ruling stems from the definition of "sex" under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Gorsuch added "An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex."
While this is a huge shift on the federal level, this ruling has minimal impact in California. California employers have been subject to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) since origination in 1959. FEHA is the primary law protecting employees from discrimination, retaliation, and harassment during the course of employment.
Employers with five or more employees are prohibited from discriminating against or retaliating against job applicants and employees because of a protected class. In addition, all employers are prohibited from harassment based on a protected category. This applies to employees, applicants, unpaid interns, volunteers, and contractors.
There are currently 18 protected categories under FEHA:
In 1980, civil rights laws in California were consolidated by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The DFEH is now the largest civil rights agency in the United States.
We will continue to monitor developments of the new ruling closely and update you if there are changes required for California employers.