US Appeals Court Rules Title VII Does Not Prohibit Anti-Gay Workplace Discrimination


Federal Courts and EEOC Rulings Previously Have Said It Does

In a 2-1 ruling issued late Friday afternoon by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, justices found Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not prohibit employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of sexual orientation. Previous federal court rulings and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission findings have stated sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination. The 11th Circuit disagreed.

The ruling came in a case brought by Jameka K. Evans, represented by Lambda Legal, which appealed a lower court decision in her suit against Georgia Regional Hospital, which had terminated her. She had worked there as a security guard from August 2012 to October 2013. In her filing last year in January, Evans alleged that supervisors at the Savannah hospital had harassed and targeted her for termination when they learned she is a lesbian. Evans says supervisors retaliated after she complained.

"I was targeted by [Chief Charles] Moss for termination due to the fact that I do not carry myself in a traditional woman manner," Evans wrote. "I am a gay female. I did not broadcast my sexuality. Although it is evident I identify with the male gender because I presented myself visually (male uniform, low male haircut, shoes, etc.)"

In a statement released by Lambda Legal last January, attorney Greg Nevins wrote that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “made it plain just last year in Baldwin v. Foxx that sexual orientation discrimination ‘necessarily’ is sex discrimination. Georgia Regional Hospital targeted Jameka Evans for harassment and eventually termination because she is a lesbian. It is time for employers to recognize that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination, and is unlawful."

“Nationwide,” Nevins continued, “employers of LGBT people are still ignoring the many rulings of the EEOC and federal district courts across the country specifically holding that allegations of sexual orientation discrimination in the form of gender stereotyping may be brought under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

After today’s decision, Nevins noted: “This is not the end of the road for us and certainly not for Jameka.”

“Keeping your job shouldn’t depend on whether or not you pass for straight. There is no way to draw a line between sexual orientation discrimination and discrimination based on gender nonconformity because not being straight is gender-nonconforming, period. Ninety percent of Americans believe that LGBT people should be treated equally in the workplace. The public is on the right side of history, and it’s time for the Eleventh Circuit to join us.” 

In a phone call late Friday Lambda Legal told NCRM that it will seek a rehearing by the full panel – all eleven judges – of the Eleventh Circuit.

Slate's Mark Joseph Stern, who first reported on the story, notes that Judge William Pryor sided with the majority. Pryor, who was on President Donald Trump's short list of Supreme Court candidates, "cited Brandon Ambrosino’s declaration that he chose to be gay in addition to an anti-gay amicus brief filed 'Same-Sex Attracted Men and Their Wives.'"

Brody Levesque is the Chief Political Correspondent for The New Civil Rights Movement.
You may contact Brody at [email protected]

To comment on this article and other NCRM content, visit our Facebook page.

Image Courtesy of Lambda Legal. Used with permission.