Lambda Legal Applauds Groundbreaking EEOC Decision

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July 16, 2015
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued a landmark ruling that the sex discrimination provisions of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protect employees who suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation.
Information is available through Lambda Legal’s Help Desk.
The decision will have two major effects.
  • First, it authoritatively recognizes that federal workers mistreated because of their sexual orientation have a claim under Title VII.
  • Second, for other workers, it will cause courts to consider carefully the logic articulated in this ruling that sex discrimination happens when women, but not men, are mistreated due to their attraction to women, and vice versa.  
Greg Nevins, Counsel and Employment Fairness Strategist for Lambda Legal, says:
This landmark opinion from the EEOC confirms what we have long argued in our cases: discriminating against gay, lesbian and bisexual employees violates federal law. This ruling is likely to have enormous positive effects because EEOC interpretations of Title VII are highly persuasive to the courts—they tend to be predictive. Given the clarity and logic of this opinion, most courts are likely to stop simply referring to old, illogical rulings about Title VII coverage. A few may disagree, but most probably will be guided by the Commission’s straightforward approach.   
Lambda Legal has been working for years on cases showing why Title VII, when properly understood, protects LGBT employees. This EEOC decision cites some of Lambda Legal’s recent work on this issue and it will be immensely significant in this continuing work. 
For example, in a federal court case in Washington, D.C., Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief providing the reasoning for the court’s conclusion that discrimination because of a worker’s “status as a homosexual” - without more – was based on unlawful gender stereotypes and stated a Title VII sex-discrimination claim. 
In another case in federal court in Seattle, where a male employee had been denied health benefits for his husband, Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief laying out the analysis for the court’s conclusion that the employee was discriminated against “based on his sex, not his sexual orientation, specifically that he (as a male who married a male) was treated differently in comparison to his female coworkers who also married males.”
Lambda Legal currently represents lesbian college instructor Kimberly Hively in an appeal before the federal appeals court in Chicago, after a court in Indiana dismissed her Title VII claim. Last fall, along with several sister organizations, Lambda Legal convinced the same court to delete language from an opinion that had said that Title VII did not cover sexual orientation discrimination. Today’s landmark decision doubtless will be important as the federal appeals courts consider Hively’s case and similar cases moving through the federal court system. 
Nevins adds:
Lambda Legal will continue to vigorously pursue protections against employment and other types of discrimination through litigation. And we encourage anyone who experiences workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity to consider all their legal options. At the same time, today’s opinion puts a spotlight on the harms and injustice of anti-LGBT discrimination. It should spur federal legislative leaders to embrace the job of providing clear and comprehensive protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. It’s long past time for Congress to pass full nondiscrimination protections—not just employment protections—for LGBT Americans. We must use every available strategy to secure justice.