While California employees already enjoy protection from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, this is not the case in every state. However, on April 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit became the first full federal appeals court to conclude that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to this type of discrimination. Title VII prohibits discrimination based on gender.
The ruling acknowledged that when Congress passed the act, it might not have considered the implications in terms of sexual orientation. Nevertheless, the opinion said that the Supreme Court’s position on gay rights had played a part in the interpretation. In addition, the opinion pointed out, discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation was inherently gender-based discrimination.
The opinion also acknowledged that in previous years, appeals courts had ruled that the prohibition against sex-based discrimination did not protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, it argued that two decades of Supreme Court decisions supported the conclusion that discrimination based on sexual orientation was illegal.
A person who is facing any type of workplace discrimination might want to discuss the situation with an attorney. Workplaces vary in how responsive they may be to reports of discrimination, and employees might first want to ascertain whether they are a protected class and how they might go about documenting and reporting the discrimination. In some workplaces, the first priority might be to protect the organization instead of the person reporting discrimination. If the workplace does not rectify the situation or the employee is retaliated against for reporting it, the attorney might be able to step in. In some cases, a lawsuit might be necessary.