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EEOC: Illegal to Discriminate against LGBT Employees

With a surprising reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC, has ruled that it is illegal to discriminate against LGBT employees.

In the case between an unnamed air traffic controller versus the Department of Transportation (Complainant v. Anthony Foxx, Secretary, Department of Transportation), the EEOC ruled that discriminating against sexual orientation is equal to sex discrimination.

“While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity in its list of protected bases, the Commission, consistent with case law from the Supreme Court and other courts, interprets the statute’s sex discrimination provision as prohibiting discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity” notes that the EEOC’s ruling only applies directly to federal employees, leaving the ruling’s effect on private employers open ended. However, it is best to play safe and assume that the federal courts will follow suit and legislate similar regulations for the private sector. The agency is working hard to implement its 2012 Strategic Enforcement Plan, a plan that focuses specifically on creating protections for LGBT individuals, so it should not be a surprise if more cases and legislation involving LGBT sex discrimination begin to appear.

With the ruling now in affect, it is essential to create practices to ensure the necessary protections from discrimination lawsuits. The best form of protection is to help foster a company environment that limits, if not eliminates, sex discrimination. It is important to talk to your employees and managers about LGBT sex discrimination, citing ways to avoid and counter sex discrimination in the workplace.

EEOC has provided several resources to help guide employers. To help avoid sex discrimination in the workplace, please refer to the EEOC’s brief brochure on gender stereotyping. Furthermore, for a brief overview of their statement and ruling on the issue, you can follow the link here.

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