On July 6, 2020, in Horton v. Midwest Geriatric Management, LLC, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s dismissal of a sex discrimination lawsuit under Title VII based on the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock. The trial court in Horton had dismissed the lawsuit based on Eighth Circuit precedent that “Title VII does not prohibit discrimination against homosexuals.” The Eighth Circuit reversed that dismissal because the Supreme Court in Bostock held it “’defies’ Title VII for ‘an employer to discriminate against employees for being homosexual sexual or transgender,’ because to do so, it ‘must intentionally discriminate against individual men and women in part because of sex.’” Therefore, the Eighth Circuit sent the case back to the trial court for reconsideration in light of this holding from Bostock.
The underlying lawsuit in Horton involved an allegation that the plaintiff—a job applicant—had an offer of employment withdrawn after the defendant—the prospective employer of plaintiff—learned he was gay. The plaintiff was the Vice President of Sales & Marketing for one of the competitors of the defendant. The defendant solicited the plaintiff to apply for the same job at its business. The plaintiff did so, received and accepted the offer of employment, and resigned from his then-current employment. In completing the hiring process, the plaintiff disclosed his homosexual relationship with his husband. The defendant thereafter notified the plaintiff that it withdrew its offer of employment and was considering other candidates.
Only time will tell how the trial court in Horton revisits and decides the legal and factual issues raised in this case, which include but are not limited to sex discrimination under Title VII. One thing, however, is clear: the legal precedent in the Eighth Circuit that the trial court relied on to dismiss the case is no longer good law given Bostock. Stay tuned for more developments.