Does The SC’s Bostock Ruling Impact Your Credit Union?

June 16, 2020 at 9:49 am Leave a comment

Yesterday’s surprising 6-3 ruling by the Supreme Court in BOSTOCK v. CLAYTON COUNTY, GEORGIA that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination on the basis of an employee’s sexual orientation will have direct or indirect consequences for your credit union depending on the state you are in.  Here are some initial take-aways:

  1. For New Yorkers, the case will have little direct impact on your day-to-day operations. Over the last two years, the newly empowered Democratic majority in the Legislature passed a series of laws giving New York employees protections which go far beyond Federal law even after yesterday’s ruling.  For example, not only does New York already bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, but it has a much lower standard for employees seeking to prove that they have been subject to sexual harassment.
  2. Conversely, for those of you who are in states which don’t protect sexual orientation, there is really no overestimating just how big a deal this case is. Yesterday it was perfectly legal as a matter of federal law to fire a star employee after word got around the office that he participated in a gay softball league, as happened to one of the plaintiffs in this case; today it is not. Overnight new policies and procedures and norms of behavior will have to be learned and implemented.
  3. “Because” I said so—Although the case will have little direct effect on New Yorkers, it underscores just how sensitive employers have to be to potential workplace discrimination. Title VII makes it “unlawful . . . for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual . . . because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U. S. C. §2000e–2(a)(1). I underscore “because of” because throughout her majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch reminds us just how expansively statues with “because of” are supposed to be interpreted.  She explains that this language means “a defendant cannot avoid liability just by citing some other factor that contributed to its challenged employment decision. So long as the plaintiff’s sex was one but-for cause of that decision, that is enough to trigger the law.”

Entry filed under: Federal Legislation, HR, Legal Watch, New York State. Tags: , , , , , .

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Authored By:

Henry Meier, Esq., Senior Vice President, General Counsel, New York Credit Union Association.

The views Henry expresses are Henry’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Association. In addition, although Henry strives to give his readers useful and accurate information on a broad range of subjects, many of which involve legal disputes, his views are not a substitute for legal advise from retained counsel.

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