Federal Appeals Court Determines Title VII Protections Against Sex Discrimination Include Sexual Orientation Discrimination

On Monday, a second federal court of appeals determined that sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964 extends to and includes sexual orientation discrimination. The New York federal appeal court determined that “sexual orientation” discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination. This means that employers are prohibited from taking one’s “sexual orientation” into consideration when making workplace decisions such as whether to hire, fire or promote a worker. In Zarda v. Altitude Express, the plaintiff, Donald Zarda, was allegedly fired after revealing that he was gay. The court determined that if Zarda had been a woman and expressed an attraction to men, presumably Zarda would not have been fired. Hence, because he was a man, his sexual attraction led to his termination.

Further, writing for the court Chief Judge Katzmann determined that because sex discrimination laws prohibits employers from discriminating against workers who don’t conform to gender norms, this rationale logically extends to homosexuality and the failure to conform to gender stereotypes. This decision is a victory for the LGBTQ+ community and those who fight against employment discrimination. Unfortunately, not all circuits have reached the same conclusion. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Georgia, has rejected this position, stating that Title VII does not protect gay employees. Whether the Supreme Court will eventually weigh in on this matter is unclear.

For more information, or if you believe that you have suffered any form of employment sex discrimination, please contact the knowledgeable Georgia employment discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.

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