Atlanta, GA – June 27, 2019 – yesterday, the law firm of Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP filed in the United States Supreme Court its opening brief in the matter of Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga., No. 17-1618. Buckley Bala Wilson Mew represents the petitioner, Mr. Gerald Bostock, a gay man who was fired from his job as the Child Welfare Services Coordinator for the juvenile court system of Clayton County, Georgia after the county learned of his sexual orientation. The lower courts dismissed Mr. Bostock’s case, ruling that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect against sexual orientation discrimination. Mr. Bostock appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed in April 2019 to hear his case, along with the consolidated case of Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc.
Mr. Bostock’s opening brief on the merits was filed yesterday and is available on the Supreme Court’s docket. https://www.supremecourt.gov/docket/docketfiles/html/public/17-1618.html. “Everyone should have the right to work regardless of their sexual orientation,” said Mr. Bostock. “I hope that the Supreme Court will rule in our favor for my sake and for all the gay, lesbian, and bisexual people trying to earn a living in our country.”
“This case is about is the interpretation of the Civil Rights Act,” said Brian J. Sutherland, a partner at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew who represents Mr. Bostock. “The law says that employers cannot discriminate against an employee on the basis of ‘sex.’ And the question is whether or not discrimination based on sex includes discrimination based on sexual orientation. We believe it does for common sense reasons, and because of the way the Supreme Court has interpreted the law in other cases.”
Mr. Bostock served the juvenile court system of Clayton County -- and the at risk children who needed advocates -- for over 10 years. He became the County’s Child Welfare Services Coordinator and was given primary responsibility for the Court Appointed Special Advocates, or “CASA” program. That program provides a volunteer, sometimes called a guardian ad litem, for children during juvenile court dependency proceedings.
Mr. Bostock was so successful in managing Clayton County’s CASA program that during his tenure it received the Georgia CASA Excellence Award in 2007, and he was asked to serve on the National CASA Standards and Policy Committee in 2011 and 2012. “But what I am most proud of,” said Mr. Bostock, “is that we were able to make sure that there was a volunteer advocate for every single kid in the Clayton County system. We were the first metro Atlanta county to do that.”
In 2013, Mr. Bostock joined a gay recreational softball league called the Hotlanta Softball League. He began to promote CASA to league members as an opportunity to volunteer,
just as he had always done with his other personal and professional contacts throughout the Atlanta area. But after Clayton County learned that Mr. Bostock was gay, it falsely claimed that he mismanaged program funds. Mr. Bostock maintains that he always used the program funds, which were unrestricted, in appropriate ways to market and promote the CASA program, and always filed proper reports for all expenditures. “It was awful to lose my job because of who I am,” said Mr. Bostock. “But it was heartbreaking that I was not able to continue making sure that every kid in the system who needed a volunteer had one.”
After filing a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Mr. Bostock filed a lawsuit in the federal district court in Atlanta and retained Buckley Bala Wilson Mew. He alleged that Clayton County violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act when it fired him for being gay, but the district court ruled that Title VII does not protect employees against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Buckley Bala Wilson Mew appealed that decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, arguing that decisions of the United States Supreme Court had fatally undermined the old case on which the Eleventh Circuit relied to dismiss Mr. Bostock’s case. The Eleventh Circuit rejected that argument and refused to rehear the case. Buckley Bala Wilson Mew then filed a petition on Mr. Bostock’s behalf with the United States Supreme Court. In April 2019, the Court agreed to hear Mr. Bostock’s case, and consolidated with the case of Donald Zarda, a gay skydiver in New York who also sued for sexual orientation discrimination after he was fired. The ACLU represents the estate of Mr. Zarda, who has since passed away, in defending the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that Title VII does protect employees from sexual orientation discrimination.
“So this case is about statutory interpretation. But it is also about lesbian, gay, and bisexual people getting their day in court,” said Sutherland. Buckley Bala Wilson Mew partner Tom Mew, who also represents Mr. Bostock, said “the Supreme Court needs to resolve this because the federal courts around the country are split on this very important question.”
“Being fired because of your gender is wrong, and so is not being able to challenge it in court under the law,” said Mr. Bostock. “That is what the Civil Rights Act is all about.”
About Buckley Bala Wilson Mew
Buckley Bala Wilson Mew is one of Atlanta’s leading employment and business law litigation firms. With an outstanding reputation for winning cases at trial and on appeal, the firm specializes in handling cases involving workplace discrimination and harassment, unpaid overtime, voting rights and other civil rights matters, denial of medical leave, executive compensation, and fraudulent business practices. The Buckley Bala Wilson Mew team also handles a variety of business disputes including partnership and shareholder disputes, tax controversies and estate and professional negligence claims. For more information about Buckley Bala Wilson Mew, visit www.buckleybeal.com.