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Does Title VII Protect Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against workers on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender, and sex.  Whether this law includes protections against sexual orientation discrimination is unsettled.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued an opinion memorandum conclusively determining that the law extends to and includes sexual orientation noting:

"While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity in its list of protected bases, the Commission, consistent with Supreme Court case law holding that employment actions motivated by gender stereotyping are unlawful sex discrimination and other court decisions, interprets the statute's sex discrimination provision as prohibiting discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity."

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, as well as the 2d Circuit, have agreed, concluding that Title VII protects against sexual orientation discrimination.  Unfortunately, however, the 11th Circuit, which includes Georgia, has determined that it does not. In Bostock v. Clayton County, a worker alleged he was terminated due to his sexual orientation.  While the appellate court did not find in his favor, this decision has been appealed to the United States Supreme Court. 

It is important that employees be allowed to work in the absence of discrimination, bigotry, and harassment.  Hopefully, the Supreme Court will take up this case, and find that consistent with EEOC interpretations and other appellate court decisions around the country, sexual orientation discrimination at the workplace is prohibited.

For more information or if you believe that you have faced any type of workplace discrimination or harassment, please contact the experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.

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