- It hasn't happened yet, but it won't be long before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sues a private employer over a sexual orientation discrimination violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, according to a BNA News report.
- In the past, the agency has investigated violations and also ruled in federal employment cases that Title VII's sex discrimination ban prohibits discrimination based on transgender status and sexual orientation.
- So far, The EEOC has filed three lawsuits against private sector employees alleging they violated Title VII by discriminating against transgender workers. According to BNA News, the EEOC's next step is to take a private employer to court, alleging sexual orientation discrimination violates Title VII, EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum said in a recent webinar.
While two federal appeals courts have allowed Title VII sex discrimination claims to proceed when gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender workers alleged bias based on gender stereotyping, no federal circuit has ruled Title VII prohibits bias based on sexual orientation, BNA News reports. The issue is most federal courts are on the record saying that Title VII simply doesn't address sexual orientation bias, reasoning that it differs from bias based on an individual's sex.
According to Feldblum, the EEOC has “been ahead of the courts” in identifying new forms of discrimination under Title VII. She added that since courts “often defer” to the EEOC's interpretations of the Title VII. Plaintiffs in a recent case against Wal-Mart are also using Title VII as the basis of their claims.
Employer policies should be very clear that no discrimination or harassment of others based on sexual orientation or gender identity will be tolerated, said one legal expert.