Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC on a desk.
This June we honor national Pride month, and most significantly this year, we celebrate the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which affirmed – as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC or the Commission) had held several years earlier – that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
We could only reach this point through the struggle, sacrifice, and vision of the many brave LGBTQ+ individuals and allies who had the courage to champion civil rights for LGBTQ+ communities. Aimee Stephens, the transgender woman who was a plaintiff in the R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case, exemplified this kind of persistence and courage. When she first decided, in the summer of 2013, to inform her employer that she wanted to present in the workplace as her true self, it was not an easy choice. She had been working for almost six years, in a job she loved. She knew the risk that came with informing her boss that she was a woman and would be coming into work dressed as a woman, rather than in the pant suit she had been required to wear when presenting as a male. As she later explained, “[s]omeone has to stand up. I chose to stand up.”
When Ms. Stephens was fired for that decision, the EEOC stood with her, arguing successfully in the lower federal courts to defend her right to be free from employment discrimination based on her gender identity. Those successes helped pave the way for the Supreme Court’s ultimate decision in her favor as part of the trio of cases resolved in the Bostock decision.
Although Aimee Stephens tragically passed shortly before the Supreme Court’s ruling, the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor within the Stonewall National Monument in New York City’s historic Stonewall Tavern marks her struggle for the rights of LGBTQ+ workers. In June 2020, her name was added to those described as American “pioneers, trailblazers and heroes.”
Now, a year after the Court’s landmark decision in Bostock, a great deal of work remains to make real the promise of equality embodied in the Bostock decision.
EEOC remains committed to that work and is moving forward in the spirit of Aimee Stephens and the many others whose courage has advanced the cause of justice for LGBTQ+ persons.
Source: EEOC website.