Jameka Evans Was Forced out of Her Job for Being a Lesbian. We're Asking the Full Eleventh Circuit to Rehear Her Case.

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March 31, 2017
Lambda Legal client Jameka Evans

Today, Lambda Legal filed a petition seeking a rehearing by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on behalf of Jameka Evans, a security guard who was harassed at work and effectively terminated from her job because she is a lesbian and doesn’t conform to gender norms in her appearance and demeanor.

Earlier this month, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit sided with her employer, rejecting her sexual orientation discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

“If it seems the Court’s decision is from the Stone Age, that’s because, from an LGBT perspective, it is. In reaffirming without questioning a 1979 decision, the court is ignoring the sea changes in the law since then. It’s a cruel, paradoxical decision, since this very court ruled just six years ago that employers could not discriminate against LGBT people for not conforming to gender stereotypes,” said Greg Nevins, Employment Fairness Project Director for Lambda Legal.

“In 2011, in Glenn v. Brumby, this Court said it was unfair and illegal to discriminate against an employee because who they are does not meet their employer’s gender stereotypes. That is exactly what happened to Jameka Evans; and she along with other lesbian, gay, and bisexual people will remain vulnerable at work if courts rely on old case law that interprets federal employment law too narrowly.”

In April of 2015, Evans filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia against her former employer, Georgia Regional Hospital. The hospital violated 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 an appeal on Jameka’s behalf, arguing that she must have her day in court because sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination and therefore illegal under Title VII, citing rulings by several federal district courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) finding that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination and thereby a prohibited employment practice.

But, the three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit denied Evans’ claim in early March 2017.

For years, Lambda Legal has been explaining to courts that Title VII, when properly understood, protects LGBT employees. Three of Lambda Legal’s successful efforts in 2014, in federal courts in Seattle, Chicago, and Washington D.C., were cited by the EEOC in Baldwin v. Foxx.

In November, Lambda Legal argued before the full 11 member U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Kim Hively, a college instructor fired from her job for being a lesbian whose similar Title VII claim was also dismissed by a federal district court in Indiana. Lambda Legal awaits the Seventh Circuit ruling.