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Is it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation under Title VII?

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering whether to hear argument on a significant case involving gay rights. In Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, a female worker is suing the Atlanta area hospital based on discrimination she endured during her employment as a security guard. She asserted that her supervisor did not like that she was a lesbian, how she wore her hair and how she dressed. As a result of his biases, she alleges, he passed over her for promotions and mistreated her. She has also asserted that given his role as a supervisor condoning discrimination, others felt free to join in in harassing her. Despite her complaints to management, insufficient action was taken, leading her to feel that she had no choice but to leave her job, amounting to a constructive discharge.

Evans filed her complaint asserting violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically asserting Title VII’s protections against sex discrimination and harassment extend to and include sexual orientation discrimination. The District Court denied her claim, as did the 11th Circuit court (which includes Georgia), on appeal, finding that sex discrimination did not include sexual orientation discrimination. However, recently a Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, held the opposite, finding that Title VII does in fact protect against sexual orientation discrimination. This split of authority makes it more likely that the Supreme Court will step in and make a determination.

At a recent press conference concerning the matter, the plaintiff noted, "During my term of employment, I endured harassment and denial of equal pay and retaliation simply because of my sexual orientation and lifestyle." She expressed hope that the Supreme Court will hear this case and rule in this matter.

As Atlanta employment attorneys dedicated to fighting workplace discrimination, we are hopeful that the Supreme Court takes up this matter and rules in Evans’ favor, establishing Title VII protection for sexual orientation discrimination. For more information, or if you have questions or concerns about any type of employment discrimination, please contact Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.

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