Best Ohio LGBT Discrimination Attorney Answer: Is being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender a protected class? Can an employer discriminate against LGBT employees? Can I sue my employer for wrongful termination because I was fired today based on my sexual orientation?
Our employment attorneys frequently write about the evolving landscape of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) employment rights (See Can I Be Fired For Marrying A Person Of The Same Sex?; Can I Be Fired Because My Boss Doesn’t Think I’m Feminine Enough?; and Can My Church Refuse To Hire Gay Cooks?). Unfortunately, our employment discrimination attorneys continue to see LGBT clients being harassed and wrongfully terminated because ignorant, stupid bosses, managers, and supervisors just refuse to treat LGBT workers with the respect and dignity that they deserve.
While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Ohio Revised Code § 4112 both prohibit employers from refusing to hire, terminating, or otherwise discriminating against an employee or applicant on the basis of that individual’s gender/sex, sexual orientation is oddly and illogically not clearly protected class under Title VII or Ohio case law.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC“) and the Obama administration have both argued that Title VII’s protections should be interpreted as protecting LGBT employees from workplace harassment and discrimination. In fact, the EEOC recently filed an amicus brief in an Eleventh Circuit case that lays out a clear, concise argument against associational discrimination based on sexual orientation, and which also points out that the logical extension of United States Supreme Court precedent and any rational interpretation of Title VII should prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
On the heels of that amicus brief, the EEOC has filed a pair of federal lawsuits alleging that employers violate the civil rights of gay and lesbian workers if they treat them unfairly because of their sexual orientation. The two lawsuits, filed on March 1, 2015 in the Western District of Pennsylvania and the District of Maryland, mark the first time the EEOC has filed suit on behalf of private employees for discrimination claims based on sexual orientation.
The lawsuits (EEOC v. Scott Medical and EEOC v. Pallet Companies) are based on the commonsensical idea that discrimination based on sexual orientation necessarily entails treating an employee differently based on sex, which is prohibited by Title VII. Specifically, the complaints assert that the employers in each case treated the respective employees less favorably because of outmoded gender stereotypes and because each of the employees was in close romantic and sexual association with members of the same sex.
In Scott, a gay employee was subjected to horrendous commentary by his supervisor (“I always wondered how you fags have sex,” “I don’t understand how you fucking fags have sex,” “Who’s the butch and who’s the bitch?”) until, after futilely complaining to the employer’s president, he quit. In Pallett, a lesbian employee, subjected to similarly grotesque harassment, was asked to resign after complaining about the harassment.
Reading the two complaints, it appears that EEOC plans to argue the cases on the theories it asserted in the Barbara Burrows amicus brief, which we’ve previously blogged about. To refresh, in that brief the EEOC points out that sexual orientation discrimination necessarily involves sex stereotyping, which, under the Supreme Court’s decision in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, violates Title VII. Price Waterhouse and its progeny stand for the proposition that treating an employee differently because that employee does not conform to traditional gender norms is unlawful. In its Burrows brief, the EEOC rightly points out that an employer who discriminates on the basis of an employee’s sexual orientation is discriminating on the basis of that employee’s failure to conform to a traditional gender norm, the norm that men are attracted to women and women to men.
In Burrows, the EEOC also makes an argument that just as Title VII applies to discrimination based on association in the context of race, it should apply in the context of sex. Price Waterhouse made clear that Title VII, at least on its face, treats each of its protected classes the same. If Title VII makes it unlawful to fire an employee because that employee is married to a member of another race, so too should it be unlawful to discriminate against an employee just because the employee is married to a member of the same sex.
Lastly, the EEOC’s brief in Burrows makes clear that sexual orientation discrimination is discrimination on the basis of sex and, thus, prohibited by Title VII, “because sexual orientation cannot be understood without reference to an individual’s sex (in conjunction with the sex of those to whom the individual is physically and/or emotionally attracted).” In other words, an employer is unable to discriminate against a gay man without first considering that man’s gender.
With Burrows, Scott, and Pallett, the EEOC has introduced compelling arguments against sexual orientation in the Eleventh, and depending on the outcome at the district level, the Third, and Fourth Circuits. Depending on the outcome of these three cases, we may get a split among the circuits, such that the Supreme Court ends up having the final say.
If you are searching “I need a lawyer because I have was wrongfully fired or terminated today;” or “I have been discriminated against because I am …” gay, a lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered; or even think that you might need an employment law lawyer, then it would be best to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. Your employment rights are constantly changing and the best way to find out if you can sue your boss, manager, supervisor or employer for discrimination, harassment, or wrongful termination is to call Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and talk to its attorneys, who are experienced and dedicated to protecting the rights of employees just like you.
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