Gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers already have employment discrimination protections under federal law, the EEOC just ruled.
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After decades of fighting for protections against discrimination in the workplace, gay, lesbian, and bisexual employees are actually covered under federal law already, the EEOC has ruled this afternoon. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finds GLB workers are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The EEOC finds today that "allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily state a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex," as Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner first reported.
Today's ruling is historic, and sets an important precedent that no doubt will lead to a Supreme Court case in the future.
Technically, the ruling covers federal workers directly, but, as Geidner notes, "it also applies to the entire EEOC, which includes its offices across the nation that take and investigate claims of discrimination in private employment. And, while only the Supreme Court could issue a definitive ruling on the interpretation, EEOC decisions are given significant deference by federal courts."
In short, the commission today has ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is discrimination based on sex, and thus covered under federal law.
In today's ruling, the EEOC states that "allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation state a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex. We further conclude that allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily state a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex."
Late last year, the U.S.Department of Justice also announced that it viewed transgender employees are covered under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade cautions, "the ruling affects only employment law. The EEOC doesn’t have authority to determine whether gender provisions in housing and education law also cover sexual orientation discrimination."
An upcoming LGBT non-discrimination comprehensive bill that Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) are set to introduce in Congress should explicitly prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in these areas in addition to employment, public accommodations, federal programs and credit.
"We applaud the EEOC's historic determination that sexual orientation is inherently a sex-based consideration, and we encourage all gay men, lesbians and bisexual Americans who face harassment or discrimination on the job to consult an attorney and file Title VII sex discrimination claims with the EEOC," Tico Almeida of the LGBT organization Freedom to Work, told NCRM via an email statement today.
"It's time for LGBT advocates to retire the incorrect talking point that gay Americans can get married at Noon and fired at 2:00 pm without legal recourse."
Almeida is urging the LGBT movement to "take this historic EEOC decision and run with it by turning to the federal courts to win workplace protections across all fifty states," and suggests the Supreme Court will be more responsive than the U.S. House of Representatives.