Last Thursday, the EEOC ruled that LGBTQ employees are protected against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission based its ruling on current federal law. This rights the wrong that 28 states and the federal government have no such laws in place.
In 2012, the EEOC ruled that workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity was a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Last week’s ruling expands that umbrella of protection, as the EEOC considers sexual orientation a sex-based issue and Title VII prohibits sex bias in the workplace.
According to Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, “Discrimination has no place in America, plain and simple. This historic ruling by the EEOC makes clear they agree workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, much like gender identity, is illegal.”
I’m grateful to the EEOC for bringing Title VII into the 21st Century. While I celebrate this newfound protection, I have to point out that there is still no such protection for us in terms of housing or public accommodations. It’s also not a guarantee that workplace discrimination suits will be successful in court.
The ruling stated “Sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination because it necessarily entails treating an employee less favorably because of the employee’s sex.
This ruling stemmed from the case of an unnamed air traffic control employee at the Miami International Airport. He stated that he was passed over for promotion based on the fact that he is gay. The employee’s claim states that his supervisor made derogatory comments about him because he was talking about his partner. The supervisor often said the employee was “a distraction in the radar room” and “We don’t need to hear about all that gay stuff.”
All that “gay stuff.” Stuff like his heterosexual counterparts’ recounting of the weekend with their wives or girlfriends? Stuff like, “We went out to dinner and a movie?” Surely, the employee wasn’t describing sex acts to his coworkers, but merely talking about common, day-to-day experiences. In my not-so-humble opinion, if I can’t talk about my boyfriend because I’m a “distraction,” I certainly don’t want to be subjected to hearing about your wife and kids.
The director of the ACLU’s LGBT project, James Esseks, said the ruling is “a monumental step forward” but warned that a comprehensive federal law is still needed due to the fact that the EEOC ruling could be inconsistently interpreted by various courts.
He added, “Employers as well as employees deserve the clarity that comes with express federal and state protections that everyone understands.”
While the employee’s name was redacted, the EEOC named the defendants: U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Interestingly, federal agencies, by policy, already prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ employees.