Earlier this year, I predicted the issue of sexual-orientation discrimination was headed all the way to the United States Supreme Court. On September 7, 2017, the issue did, in fact, reach the Supreme Court when the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a petition for a writ of certiorari on behalf of Jameka Evans. Ms. Evans had sued her employer for allegedly firing her for being a lesbian.
Odd, bizarre, contradictory, based on gossamer-thin distinctions—all these words have been used to describe the state of the law about employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
On August 18, 2016, a U.S. District Court in Michigan ruled that religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) trump transgender rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC v. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., 2016 WL 4396083 (E.D. Mich., August 18, 2016).
On June 28, 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it had settled one of its first lawsuits alleging sexual orientation discrimination. The settlement—in the form of a consent decree—requires Pallet Companies, doing business as IFCO Systems (IFCO), to pay $202,200 in addition to a number of nonmonetary requirements. This landmark decree comes less than a year after the EEOC first concluded that discrimination on the basis of an employee’s sexual orientation amounted to sex discrimination.
In a recent decision about an appeal from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) left no question it views sexual orientation discrimination as falling within the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC stated its intent to treat all sexual orientation discrimination as sex discrimination, actionable under Title VII.