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Gender Discrimination: U.S. Supreme Court Cases

Gender discrimination — or sex discrimination — is a form of discrimination that includes many different aspects of everyday life. Not only is it illegal to treat someone unfairly or inappropriately due to their sex, but courts have also extended coverage of sex discrimination to include discrimination due to pregnancy, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Regardless, the scope of federal gender discrimination protections with respect to LGBTQ individuals is unsettled and remains a contentious issue.

Below is a list of U.S. Supreme Court cases involving gender discrimination and women's rights, including links to the full text of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

  • Cleveland Bd. of Ed. v. LaFleur (1974) The Supreme Court found that Ohio public school mandatory maternity leave rules for pregnant teachers violate constitutional guarantees of due process.
  • Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson (1986) The Court held that a claim of "hostile environment" sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that may be brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Johnson v. Transportation Agency (1987) The Court decided that a county transportation agency appropriately took in account an employee's sex as one factor in determining whether she should be promoted.
  • Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools (1992) The Court decided that an award of money damages is possible in a case brought to enforce Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, alleging sexual harassment and abuse by a teacher.
  • J.E.B. v. Alabama ex rel T.B., (1994) The Court held that prosecutors may not use peremptory challenges to dismiss jurors based on their sex.
  • United States v. Virginia (1996) The Court found that sex-based "separate but equal" military training facilities violated the Equal Protection Clause.
  • Faragher v. City of Boca Raton (1998) The Court decided that an employer may be liable for sexual discrimination caused by a supervisor, but liability depends on the reasonableness of the employer's conduct, as well as the reasonableness of the plaintiff victim's conduct.
  • Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Serv., Inc. (1998) The Supreme Court held that sex discrimination consisting of same-sex sexual harassment can form the basis for a valid claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (1999) The Court ruled that a lawsuit under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 may be filed against a school board based on student-on-student sexual harassment if the board is deliberately indifferent to sexual harassment, has actual knowledge of the harassment, and the harassment is so serious that it deprives the victims of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school.
  • Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education (2005): The Court held that an individual can bring a retaliation claim under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 when they are retaliated against for speaking up about sex discrimination. 
  • Burlington Northern & Sante Fe Railway Co. v. White (2006): A company's indefinite suspension of an employee to avoid sexual harassment claims constituted unlawful retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Bostock v. Clayton County (2020) The Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This ruling clearly states that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are sex discrimination for the purpose of the Act, and are therefore illegal under federal law. 

Have You Been Mistreated Because of Your Gender? Get Professional Legal Help

If you have been treated unfairly due to your gender when seeking housing, employment, or an education, your civil rights may have been violated. You may have a claim for gender discrimination. Being mistreated because of your gender is unfair and illegal. Do not hesitate to take action. The best way to defend your rights and move forward is to discuss these issues with an experienced civil rights attorney familiar with discrimination claims.

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