Eleventh Circuit Rules Against Employee Harassed and Forced Out For Being a Lesbian

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March 10, 2017
Lambda Legal client Jameka Evans

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit largely affirmed a lower district court’s ruling dismissing the lawsuit of Jameka Evans, a security guard who was targeted for harassment and effectively terminated from her job at Georgia Regional Hospital because she is a lesbian and didn’t conform to gender norms in her appearance and demeanor.

Lambda Legal will seek a rehearing by the full panel – all eleven judges – of the Eleventh Circuit.

Disagreeing with a 2011 opinion he joined in Lambda Legal’s case on behalf of Vandy Beth Glenn, a transgender woman fired from her job at the Georgia Assembly, Judge William Pryor said, “Because a claim of gender nonconformity is a behavior-based claim, not a status-based claim, a plaintiff still ‘must show that the employer actually relied on her gender in making its decision.’”

“This is not the end of the road for us and certainly not for Jameka,” said Greg Nevins, Employment Fairness Project Director for Lambda Legal. “Keeping your job shouldn’t depend on whether or not you pass for straight. There is no way to draw a line between sexual orientation discrimination and discrimination based on gender nonconformity because not being straight is gender-nonconforming, period. Ninety percent of Americans believe that LGBT people should be treated equally in the workplace. The public is on the right side of history, and it’s time for the Eleventh Circuit to join us.”

In her dissent opinion, Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum joins the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a host of district courts as the first appellate judge to emphatically say:

”...I argue that discrimination against a lesbian because she fails to comport with the employer’s view of what a woman should be violates Title VII’s ban on discrimination 'because of ... sex,' and I support this argument with the text of Title VII, Supreme Court precedent, and this Court’s opinion in Glenn. I also note that logic is on my side. Of course, the concurrence is free to ignore my analysis rather than respond to it, but that doesn’t make it go away.”

In April of 2015, Jameka Evans filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia against her former employer, Georgia Regional Hospital, claiming the hospital was violating Title VII by discriminating against her because of her sexual orientation and her nonconformity with gender norms of appearance and demeanor.

The district court dismissed her complaint, saying that Title VII does not protect her as a lesbian. In January of last year, Lambda Legal filed its brief with the Eleventh Circuit in its appeal of that ruling, arguing that Jameka must have her day in court, because sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination and therefore illegal under Title VII.

Just this past December, Greg Nevins argued on Jameka’s behalf before the Eleventh Circuit.

Read the press release.