Double Glass Ceiling: The LGBTQ+ Community in the Workplace


On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the LGBT+ community was protected from workplace discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This ruling is a large step forward for LGBT rights and protections. With this ruling, there are many expected positive outcomes for those within the LGBT community such as improved financial stability and mental health. It is still unclear though if this ruling will have or has had any impact on the double glass ceiling that queer women face within the workplace.

A photo taken from a rally in October to show support for LGBT+ workers and protest workplace discrimination.

The Ruling

Until the Court’s ruling, it was legal for more than half of the states in the United States to fire an employee for being gay, bisexual, or transgender [1]. The ruling passed with a 6-3 vote with Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Cheif Justice John G. Roberts Jr. voting in favor. Justice Gorsuch’s vote came as a surprise as he was President Trump’s first appointment to the Supreme Court in the Trump administration’s efforts to turn the Court more conversative. The Trump administration has taken many efforts in the past to undo protections and benefits for the LGBT community such as barring most transgender people from serving in the military and passing legislation which made transgender paitents vulnerable to healthcare discrimination. While the military ban was put into place, this decision seems to be a positive sign for securing rights for transgender people. 

Multiple cases were brought before the case to influence this ruling. Two cases were about employees who sued due to being fired because they are gay. Bostock v. Clayton County was brought before the Supreme Court as Gerald Bostock sued his employers, Clayton County, as he was fired after joining a same-sex softball league. The other case was Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda where Donald Zarda, a sky diving instructor, told one of his female students that he was gay in order to make her feel more comfortbale during a tandem flight. Zarda was fired almost immediately after this jump. The third case of importance was brought forward by Aimee Stephens who is a transgender woman and was fired from her job as a funeral director after openly dressing as a woman at work[2].

The ruling passed based on a statute within the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and sex [3]. Based on the inclusion of “sex” in the original statute, Justice Gorsuch stated that this included protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as it is impossible to discriminate against someone for these reasons without direct influence of their sex.

1. Adam Liptak, “Civil Rights Law Protects Gay and Transgender Workers, Supreme Court Rules,” New York Times, last modified June 16, 2020,

2. Nina Totenberg, “Supreme Court Delivers Major Victory to LGBTQ Employees,” National Public Radio, June 15, 2020,

3. Adam Liptak, “Civil Rights Law Protects Gay and Transgender Workers, Supreme Court Rules,” New York Times, last modified June 16, 2020,

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