Federal judge rules that Title VII protects LGBT workers
- A federal judge ruled that current sex anti-discrimination laws protect LGBT individuals, reports BuzzFeedNews. The decision is a score for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which brought the suit against the Scott Medical Health Center.
- For years, the EEOC fought to extend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to LGBT employees. The agency decided last year that sex anti-discrimination laws should cover the group and brought its first two sexual-orientation cases, including Scott Medical, to federal court in March. The agency granted transgender men and women protection under the law in an earlier decision.
- Scott Medical wanted the case dismissed, arguing that sex anti-discrimination laws don’t protect against discrimination based sexual orientation. The judge disagreed, however, stating that forcing someone to fit into an expected gender role is sex stereotyping and therefore violates Title VII. Stereotyping can apply to dress, mannerisms, physical traits and sexual attraction, said the judge.
Sex discrimination is a broad term that could reasonably apply to a more specific term like sexual orientation. Evidently, the EEOC’s interpretation of the law and the judge’s ruling agreed. The EEOC’s victory in the case could settle any future arguments about whether LGBT employees are protected under Title VII. Employers may need to make this clear in communicating sex discrimination policies in the workplace.
A full federal appeals court in Chicago is set to reconsider a three-judge panel’s argument that LGBT employees are not protected by sex discrimination laws under Title VII. The panel contends that only a Supreme Court ruling or changes in the law can extend protections to LGBT workers. If a SCOTUS ruling becomes necessary, it will end speculation about who’s protected and allow employers to enforce sex-based antidiscrimination policies more clearly.