On February 26, 2018, in a massive victory for civil rights advocacy, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an opinion from en banc review of the case Zarda v. Altitude Express, finding that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of “sex discrimination” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In simple terms, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinion held that employers cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation in making employment decisions, including hiring, firing, compensation, promotion, and much more.
At oral argument, attorneys from the Trump Administration (i.e., the Department of Justice) argued to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination “because of sex” does not extend to “sexual orientation.”
Oppositely, attorneys from the EEOC, Lambda Legal, and many others strongly contended that sexual orientation clearly fell within the ambit of Title VII’s “because of sex” language.
Bucking the argument of the Trump Administration, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held: “We see no principled basis for recognizing a violation of Title VII for associational discrimination based on race but not on sex.”
Although the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, has held differently on the same issue, a time of change in the law could come very soon.
With the appellate circuits split on the question, it is almost guaranteed that the Supreme Court of the United States will take up the case and issue a ruling that places the matter to rest.
As it stands, the Defendant in Zarda v. Altitude Express has thirty (30) days from today to file a notice of appeal.
Employers and employees alike should keep their eyes glued to this very important civil rights issue that could have enormous impacts in the workplace. The attorneys at Hutchison & Stoy, PLLC are dedicated and fervent defenders of every employee’s right to be free from discrimination in their work.
If you feel as if you have been a victim of discrimination, give our office a call today for a free consultation.