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Do Title VII’s protections against sex discrimination extend to sexual orientation discrimination?

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which covers Georgia, Florida and Alabama, has just denied a woman’s claim of discrimination based on sexual orientation. In the recent case a woman asserts that she lost her job due to sexual orientation discrimination. The former hospital security officer alleged she was denied equal pay, harassed, and physically assaulted at work because she is gay and that she did not dress or carried herself “in a traditional woman[ly] manner” during the time she worked at the hospital. She stated that her employer retaliated against her after she complained to human resources about unfair treatment. The 11th Circuit denied the woman’s claim based on her status as a lesbian, pointing to previous law holding that Title VII does not protect against "workplace discrimination because of [one's] sexual orientation."

Conversely a recent 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, as well as a recent Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) administrative decision held the opposite, i.e. that a person alleging sexual orientation discrimination has a cognizable claim under Title VII.  While the administrative decision is not binding in a court of law as are the appellate decisions, it reflects a societal shift toward greater protections for LGBTQ individuals. Because this matter is unsettled and conflicting court opinions exist, should this decision be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, the Court may be willing to hear the case, and issue a final ruling providing guidance concerning this important issue.  

As Atlanta employment discrimination attorney attorneys, we represent workers in all type of employment discrimination claims, including sexual orientation discrimination. For more information or if you believe you were the victim of discrimination or retaliation, please contact the dedicated Atlanta work place discrimination lawyers at Buckley Beal LLP for an immediate case evaluation.

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