August 3, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Court: Civil Rights Act Protects Sexual Orientation

In a ruling that could ensure workplace protection for gay workers, a federal appeals court in New York has ruled that employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation.

The ruling marks a loss for the Trump administration. Back in July, the Justice Department took the unusual step of intervening in an ongoing dispute between a worker and employer over alleged discrimination, arguing that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act did not protect workers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Oddly enough, this put the Justice Department on the opposite side of the issue from another federal entity, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The case centered around the interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit became the second appeals court to rule that the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits workplace prejudice on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” implicitly covers sexual orientation as well. An appeals court in Atlanta has ruled differently, setting up a showdown in an increasingly conservative Supreme Court.

The dispute that the case stemmed from began when a skydiving company, Altitude Express, fired a skydiving instructor, Donald Zarda, in 2010. Altitude Express terminated Zarda for telling a female client that he was “100 percent gay” as they were preparing for a tandem sky-dive, which involves strapping the client and instructor together. The woman’s boyfriend complained to the company.

Zarda defended himself, saying that the woman had seemed uncomfortable with the close physical contact and the comment was meant to allay her anxiety. In response to his termination, he filed a lawsuit claiming that his Title VII rights had been violated by Altitude Express. This most recent court victory follows two previous court rulings against him.

Tragically, Zarda is not around to enjoy the verdict. In 2014, he died in a sky-diving accident, but his lawsuit continued to wind its way through the judicial system.

In the majority opinion for the Second Circuit, Chief Judge Robert Katzmann pointed out that “Since 1964, the legal framework for evaluating Title VII claims has evolved substantially.” For example, he continued, the law has expanded to outlaw discrimination based on “sex stereotypes.”

It does not make sense to exclude sexual orientation from the list of prohibited biases, Judge Katzmann concluded. “Sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination because sexual orientation is defined by one’s sex in relation to the sex of those to whom one is attracted,” he wrote, “making it impossible for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without taking sex into account.”

A historic court decision could lead to better LGBTQ+ workplace protections nationwide.

Related Posts

West Hollywood, Long Beach Earn Top Marks in 2019 Equality Index

December 20, 2019

December 20, 2019

2019 was a great year for the LGBTQ+ communities in West Hollywood and Long Beach.  Both cities earned a score...

National Center for Lesbian Rights Announces New Executive Director

December 18, 2019

December 18, 2019

The National Center for Lesbian Rights recently announced the appointment of Imani Rupert-Gordon as the new Executive Director.  “Imani is...

“They” Announced as Merriam-Webster’s 2019 Word of the Year

December 10, 2019

December 10, 2019

What are your pronouns? Merriam-Webster cares.  This morning Merriam-Webster announced that the 2019 Word of the Year is “they.”  “English...

California One of Top States in Equality CA’s Legislative Scorecard

December 5, 2019

December 5, 2019

California earned top marks in Equality California’s recently released annual state legislative scorecard for 2019 Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide...

22 Trans Lives Lost to Violence This Year

November 20, 2019

November 20, 2019

One this day 21 years ago, Gwendolyn Ann Smith founded Transgender Day of Remembrance to memorialize the vicious murder of...

Trump Administration Attacks LGBTQ People Yet Again with HHS Proposed Rule

November 4, 2019

November 4, 2019

To kick off Trans Awareness Month, the Trump Administration has outdone itself in trampling over LGBTQ+ folks’ rights. Today, the...

Q&A w/ a Therapist: “How do I Come Out?”

October 10, 2019

October 10, 2019

Tomorrow marks the 30th annual National Coming Out Day. This is the day when folks can come out as LGBTQ+ to friends, family and coworkers. Coming out is a powerful...

Everything You Need to Know About Tonight’s LGBTQ Town Hall w/ Democratic Presidential Candidates

October 10, 2019

October 10, 2019

It’s showtime, folks! Tonight is the LGBTQ Town Hall featuring Democratic presidential candidates answering all things queer. Human Rights Campaign...

LGBTQ+ Voices in the Business of Music

August 22, 2019

August 22, 2019

Nearly a quarter of 18 to 34-year-olds identify as LGBTQ+, with nearly all queer  consumers being self-proclaimed music fans, according...

CA Senate Bills You Need to Know About

August 8, 2019

August 8, 2019

SB 201, 159 and 233 all aim to make a change for LGBTQ+ members — find out who they aim...

Policy Brief Outlines How Trump’s New Healthcare Plan Would Harm LGBTQ+ Community

August 8, 2019

August 8, 2019

The Fenway Institute of Fenway Health recently released a policy brief outlining the harm to LGBTQ+ people likely to result...

Bisexuals Suffer from Identity Denial, Depression

July 25, 2019

July 25, 2019

Rutgers researchers find that bisexuals can experience discrimination that may lead to mental health issues. Bisexual individuals may feel discriminated...

COLUMN: L.A. in the Ranking of American Cities for LGBTQ+ Dating

July 24, 2019

July 24, 2019

By David Cusick Across the US, the LGBTQ+ community is becoming more widely accepted each day and each year. Still,...

BREAKING: House Passes Equality Act LGBTQ rights Bill

May 17, 2019

May 17, 2019

Despite previously aggressive pushback from Republican lawmakers, the US House of Representatives passed the Equality Act on Friday, May 17....

Third time may be the charm for The Equality Act?

April 5, 2019

April 5, 2019

Bill providing LGBTQ+ protections is currently being reviewed by U.S. Committees. By Jorge Paniagua Republicans challenged the legislation with anti-transgender...