The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects the LGBT community from workplace discrimination. In a 3-2 vote, the EEOC determined that the landmark legislation, which prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sex, also forbids sexual orientation discrimination.
“Sexual orientation discrimination is also sex discrimination because it is associational discrimination on the basis of sex,” reads the opinion. “That is, an employee alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is claiming that his or her employer took his or her sex into account by treating him or her differently for associating with a person of the same sex.”
The decision stems from a complaint filed by Anthony Foxx, an air traffic control agent from Florida, who believed he was passed over for a promotion because of his sexual orientation. After investigation, the EEOC concluded that Foxx had been discriminated against because he was gay.
EEOC’s sexual orientation discrimination ruling applies to federal employees claims against the government, as well as private sector employment discrimination. Despite counter rulings by several other circuit courts, last week’s decision could prove a major step in outlawing discrimination against LGBT people in general. This ruling follows an EEOC decision made in 2012 that declared discrimination based on gender identity was sex discrimination, which has become widely accepted by federal courts.
Director Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) applauded the decision. However, Minter noted that the LGBTQ community will not have true equality until Congress enacts legislation prohibit any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people are strongly supported by Americans from all walks of life,” said Minter. “We’ll continue working to ensure our laws at the municipal, state and federal level recognize that LGBT Americans deserve to live free from the fear of discrimination.”
This decision is vital in creating a safe workplace environment for LGBT folks. After the Supreme Court ruling this past June that legalized same sex marriage, many assumed that the LGBT community’s fight for equality had come to an end. However, in many states people can be denied credit, evicted from their apartments, and refused hotel rooms based on their sexual orientation.
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 6/26/15; Washington Post 7/16/15; NCLR Press Room 7/17/15; The Hill 7/17/15; AAUW; RH Reality Check 7/20/15