- Late last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled in a 3-2 vote along party lines that federal LGBT workers are a protected class under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
- In what Time.com called a "groundbreaking" decision, the EEOC's ruling in the matter "provides new protections for LGBT Americans." Slate also offered a comprehensive look at the EEOC decision.
- In the past, courts have ruled that Title VII does not cover discrimination based on sexual orientation because it’s not explicitly mentioned in the law, but the EEOC’s ruling disputes that reasoning.The EEOC committee argued that if an employer discriminated against a lesbian for displaying a photo of her wife, but not a straight man for showing a photo of his wife, that amounts to sex discrimination.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights called Thursday’s decision historic. “This decision, which follows an earlier EEOC ruling that federal nondiscrimination laws protect transgender people, adds to the growing consensus among federal agencies and courts that existing federal laws prohibit workplace discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity,” NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter said in a statement.
Freedom for All Americans, the organization pushing for such protections at the state and federal level, said the EEOC’s decision highlights the need for a comprehensive federal law.
For employers in the private sector, it would be prudent to ensure that hiring and other HR-related compliance issues are not discriminatory against LGBT workers, or the result could be an EEOC action, based on its publicly released Strategic Enforcement Plan.