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Workplace Discrimination Laws: Court Case

Case/Parties: Altitude Express v. Zarda (2020)

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Facts: An Altitude Express employee, Donald Zarda, warned female customers that he is gay to minimize possible sexual harassment complaints due to his work’s specificities that required him to be in close proximity to clients. However, one of the customers complained about the inappropriate behavior of Zarda, and Altitude Express fired him. Zarda sued his employer for his termination based on sexual orientation as a violation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in Altitude Express’s favor. Zarda appealed his case to the Supreme Court, arguing that Title VII applied not only to sex but also to sexual orientation.

Issues: “Does Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination “because of sex” encompass discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation?” (Altitude Express v. Zarda, 2020, para. 5)

Holding: 6-3 majority vote decided that employers who terminate their workers on the basis of their sexual orientation break the law by violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Supreme Court argued that workplace sexual discrimination occurs when a gay person does not conform to gender roles applicable to their sex, which is a violation of the aforementioned Civil Rights Act.

Reasoning:Majority Reasoning (Justice Gorsuch)


Employers who discriminate against sexual minorities ground their opinions on gender, which disregards Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits oppressing individuals for their “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” (Altitude Express v. Zarda, 2020, para. 7).

  1. This rule’s purpose is to establish that discrimination based on sexual orientation pertains to one’s gender because employers expect sexual minority members to “comport themselves in manner consistent with the traditional understanding of their gender” (Altitude Express v. Zarda, 2019, para. 8).
  2. Treating gay and transgender employees differently to other workers would be disregarding Title VII due to its connection to sexism and gender roles.


Altitude Express unlawfully fired Zarda based on his sexual orientation and nonconformity to gender roles, which made Altitude Express guilty of workplace sex discrimination.

Dissenting (Justice Alito): The majority ignored the historical context of Title VII to “pass off its decision as the inevitable product of the textualist school of statutory interpretation” instead of “better reflecting the current values of society” (Altitude Express v. Zarda, 2020, para 8).

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Dissenting (Justice Kavanaugh): Title VII does not explicitly relate to the discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which makes it inapplicable to the current case.


This case is essential in workplace discrimination since it stated that Title VII includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and extended the use of the rule for future cases. I agree with the majority since the historical implications cannot be applied to the current context because sexual minorities were not a part of the issue when Title VII was initially enacted in 1964. On the contrary, its unambiguous phrasing prohibits exclusion based on one’s racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual background. This can be applied to LGBTQ+ since their discrimination is undertaken with partial regard to gender. If the decision ruled in favor of Altitude Express and denied the expansion of Title VII’s protection, sexual discrimination would perpetuate human rights violation by giving discriminatory employers an advantage via this case’s statutory interpretation.


I selected this case because I believe that gender and sexual minority discrimination is a pressing problem that lacks legal repercussions. Supreme Court has decided to hear the case since it is connected to a similar one, Bostock v. Clayton County, to clarify Title VII in regards to sexual orientation and address LGBTQ+ discrimination.


Oyez. (2020). Altitude Express v. Zarda. Web.

Oyez. (2019). Altitude Express v. Zarda. Oral Argument 2.0. Web.

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