The Supreme Court of the United States recently declined to hear an appeal by a Georgia security guard who claimed she was harassed and wrongfully terminated from her job due to her sexual orientation. The refusal to hear her appeal means that a decision regarding whether federal laws that ban gender-based bias also cover sexual orientation discrimination will be pushed further into the future.
In refusing to hear the appeal, the Supreme Court left in place a lower court’s ruling against the employee, Jameka Evans. Evans sued her employer in 2015, claiming a variety of discriminatory behaviors. She said that her employer attempted to force her out because she did not conform to female gender stereotypes. She also claimed that a supervisor asked detailed questions about her relationships, promoted a junior employee over her and physically assaulted her with a door.
Does Title VI Protect LGBT Employees from Discrimination?
The key question in the case was whether discrimination due to sexual orientation counted as sex discrimination under Title VI. Different courts in different parts of the United States have split on the issue. Since 2012, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has argued that bias against LGBT workers is a Title VI violation. However, last year, President Donald Trump’s administration argued the opposite in a case involving a skydiving instructor, who claimed to have lost his job after revealing his sexual orientation to a customer. That case is pending before a New York federal appeals court.
While the question of whether sexual orientation discrimination is covered under Title VI’s sex discrimination law, in California, employers are not allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). If you believe you have been subjected to sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, our attorneys are prepared to help you.