Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against various forms of discrimination including sex, religion, gender and national origin. Whether it protects against sexual orientation discrimination is unsettled, with differing appellate court decisions. In an advisory opinion the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has argued that sexual discrimination extends to and includes sexual orientation discrimination. However, this opinion only serves as guidance rather than determinative law.
The Supreme Court has been asked to rule on a case involving a transgender female, who worked as a funeral director. In 2013, a funeral director who had been known as Anthony Stephens notified her place of work that she would be returning to work as a female dressing in appropriate business attire and carrying out her job functions as usual. However, two weeks later she was fired by the funeral home’s owner. The funeral director explained that it was clearly based on her transgender status, noting she was fired because “he was no longer going to represent himself as a man. He wanted to dress as a woman.” Ms. Stephens sued for discrimination and the Sixth Circuit sided with her holding that it is “analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex,” the court said. “Discrimination ‘because of sex’ inherently includes discrimination against employees because of a change in their sex.”
The Supreme Court will determine whether to hear this case on November 30. Two other related cases concerning whether Title VII bars discrimination based on sexual orientation are also under consideration.
As employment attorneys dedicated to fighting against employment discrimination we will be following these decisions closely.
For more information or if you believe you have experienced any form of workplace discrimination please contact the dedicated Georgia workplace discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for ften, an immediate case evaluation.