Resource: Bostock v. Clayton County

By: Oyez

June 15, 2020

Gerald Bostock, a gay man, began working for Clayton County, Georgia, as a child welfare services coordinator in 2003. During his ten-year career with Clayton County, Bostock received positive performance evaluations and numerous accolades. In 2013, Bostock began participating in a gay recreational softball league. Shortly thereafter, Bostock received criticism for his participation in the league and for his sexual orientation and identity generally. During a meeting in which Bostock’s supervisor was present, at least one individual openly made disparaging remarks about Bostock’s sexual orientation and his participation in the gay softball league. Around the same time, Clayton County informed Bostock that it would be conducting an internal audit of the program funds he managed. Shortly afterwards, Clayton County terminated Bostock allegedly for “conduct unbecoming of its employees.”

Within months of his termination, Bostock filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Three years later, in 2016, he filed a pro se lawsuit against the county alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The district court dismissed his lawsuit for failure to state a claim, finding that Bostock’s claim relied on an interpretation of Title VII as prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, contrary to a 1979 decision holding otherwise, the continued which was recently affirmed in Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, 850 F.3d 1248 (11th Cir. 2017). Bostock appealed, and the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court. In addition to noting procedural deficiencies in Bostock’s appeal, the Eleventh Circuit panel pointed out that it cannot overrule a prior panel’s holding in the absence of an intervening Supreme Court or Eleventh Circuit en banc decision.

This case is consolidated for oral argument with Altitude Express v. Zarda, No. 17-1623.