Despite the lack of explicit federal statutory protections against discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity, there currently are some protections afforded by federal administrative agencies. One of these administrative protections is in the employment context.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 created the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee based upon a number of protected classes. The EEOC interprets and enforces the prohibition of sex discrimination as forbidding any employment discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. These protections apply regardless of any contrary state or local laws. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws.
Time is of the essence to file a complaint with the EEOC. If you have questions related to the process or believe you have been the victim of unfair discrimination in the workplace based upon your sexual orientation or gender identity, it is important to reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. You can file a request for the Equality Ohio Legal Clinic to review your inquiry here.
Recently, the United States Supreme Court announced it was going to review a challenge related to an employment discrimination case from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals which hears cases from the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. The challenge involves a transgender individual who was terminated from her position at a funeral home as a result of her gender identity. In its decision in Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the appeals court said “[it] is analytically impossible to fire an employee based on that employee’s status as a transgender person without being motivated, at least in part, by the employee’s sex.”
The Supreme Court will review the following question: whether the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against transgender people based on (1) their status as transgender or (2) sex stereotyping under the standard announced in the Supreme Court’s prior decision, Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins.
For information about this case, and the other two cases that the Supreme Court recently agreed to hear related to sexual orientation discrimination that could impact you, please stay tuned for future posts!