In Focus: Pride Month Ends with Legal Brief to Protect LGBTQ Employees

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek June 28, 2017
In Focus: Pride Month Ends with Legal Brief to Protect LGBTQ Employees

Sexual-orientation discrimination is a form of sex stereotyping and wrongly penalizes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) employees, attorneys general for Connecticut, New York, and Vermont said in an amicus brief filed June 26

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman filed the brief in Zarda v. Altitude Express, which is being heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The case involves a former sky diving instructor who alleged he was fired after disclosing his sexual orientation to a customer. A panel of three circuit judges dismissed Donald Zarda's case in April. But last month, the full court—which can overturn the prior ruling—agreed to review the case. 

In the brief, Schneiderman argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The brief was filed during the last week of LGBTQ Pride Month.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Equal Employment Opportunity]

Google, Microsoft Among Companies Urging Court to Back Gay Workers 

Dozens of companies, including Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Microsoft Corp, CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc. urged a federal appeals court on June 26 to rule that a law banning sex discrimination in the workplace offers protections to gay employees.

The brief submitted by 50 companies to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan marks the first time such a large group of businesses has backed arguments about employment discrimination that LGBT groups and the administration of former President Barack Obama have made for years. 

LGBTQ Workplace Discrimination Ruling: Who Exactly Is Affected? 

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago on April 4, 2016, became the first federal appeals court to rule that long-standing civil rights laws prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. The case did not address discrimination based on gender identity. But while the ruling does not explicitly protect transgender orkers from discrimination, the "writing is on the wall" when it comes to protections for transgender employees, one attorney said. 
(NBC News)   

Discrimination Against Gays Is Prohibited Sex Stereotyping

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 clearly prohibits sexual stereotyping, according to the Supreme Court's ruling in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989). The plaintiff "represents the ultimate case of failure to conform to the female stereotype … she is not heterosexual," the 7th Circuit wrote in finding that Title VII prohibits sexual orientation discrimination.
(The Washington Post)

Appeals Court Rules Sexual Orientation Discrimination Is Not Prohibited  

An appeals court recently excluded sexual orientation discrimination from protection under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, SHRM Online reported March 2017. However, employment attorneys said employers should continue to investigate and not tolerate such discrimination. HR also should retain sexual orientation as a protected status under company anti-harassment and equal employment opportunity policies. Pending court decisions may change the federal courts' history of ruling this way, attorneys said. 
(SHRM Online

Workplace Discrimination: The LGBT Workforce (viewpoint)

The LGBT community is statistically one of the most discriminated against demographics in the world today. At present, too many gay and transgendered workers are being judged based on their sexual orientation and gender identity—factors of which have no impact on an individual's ability to perform in a workplace setting.
(Huffington Post blog)

Was this article useful? SHRM offers thousands of tools, templates and other exclusive member benefits, including compliance updates, sample policies, HR expert advice, education discounts, a growing online member community and much more. Join/Renew Now and let SHRM help you work smarter.



Hire the best HR talent or advance your own career.

Move your HR career forward.

Apply for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP exam today! Applicants now have the option to test from home.

Apply for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP exam today! Applicants now have the option to test from home.



HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.