The attorneys general of three states have joined the fight against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Vermont, Connecticut, and New York have added their support to that of 50 major companies across the U.S. in asking a federal appeals court to extend the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to workers discriminated against because of their LGBT status. Currently, employees can be passed over for promotion or even fired for their sexual orientation with no recourse under the provisions of Title VII. A ruling in favor of expanding the enumerated protections of the law to include persons who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender would be a significant step forward in protecting the rights of all workers.

Major Corporations on Board with Expanding Protections

Among the 50 companies that have signed on to support the expansion of Title VII are such luminaries as CBS, Viacom, Google, Microsoft and Levi Strauss. Sexual orientation is a protected class in 20 of the 50 states as well as in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. The state of New York enacted the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act in 2002, which prohibits discrimination against LGBT workers. The filing currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit could potentially result in a precedent that would ensure equal rights in the workplace for LGBT employees across the nation.

Does Sex Include Sexual Orientation?

While the protections afforded by Title VII explicitly list gender as a class this legislation covers, the crux of the question before the court seems to focus around whether sexual orientation is a subset of sex for purposes of discrimination. The law currently prohibits discrimination in employment based on sex, religious views, race, color and country of origin. If sexual orientation is included in that list, it could provide added protections for those who might otherwise experience discrimination because of their LGBT status.

Types of Discrimination

Title VII prohibits discrimination in job assignments, pay rates, hiring, firing, layoffs, fringe benefits, educational benefits and all other benefits typically accorded to employees in a particular company. It also encompasses sexual harassment cases involving verbal or physical misconduct. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has acted on behalf of LGBT workers who claimed discrimination based on their sexual orientation or identity. In the legal system, however, the results have not been as universally favorable.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is set to hear arguments starting in September 2017. For New York workers who feel they have been discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, sexual identity or any other protected status under Title VII, contacting a law firm that specializes in these issues can provide added help and support in defending their rights. Risman & Risman are the proven leaders in New York employment litigation and can help protect your rights both in and out of the courtroom setting. Call us at 212-233-6400 to schedule your free consultation. We look forward to the chance to serve you.

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