Karine Jean-Pierre
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EEOC Assures LGB Workers Are Protected From Workplace Discrimination

EEOC Assures LGB Workers Are Protected From Workplace Discrimination

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued a landmark ruling that affirms employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees is against federal law.

A spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union confirmed the ruling to The Advocate, saying that although commissioners did not include consideration of transgender employees, they, too are protected by existing law. That was first established in the historic case of Mia Macy against then-Justice Secretary Eric Holder in 2013.

BuzzFeed first reported the ruling, which was issued Wednesday without objection from any member of the five-person commission. The report says the decision applies to federal employees’ claims as well as to EEOC offices nationwide, which investigate claims of discrimination in private employment.

“Allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily state a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex,” the commission concluded in a decision dated July 15, according to BuzzFeed.

The report said the EEOC was considering whether the ban on sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars anti-LGB discrimination, in a complaint brought against Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx by an air traffic control specialist in Florida.

The ACLU swiftly issued a statement heralding the decision, saying in part:

“The fight for basic civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people just took a big step forward,” said American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project director, James Esseks.

“Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people all across the country now have a place to turn if an employer fires them because of their sexual orientation. This is a significant development because protections for gay and transgender people are almost nonexistent in federal law, and 28 states also lack state-level protections.” 

As the ACLU made clear in its statement, there are no explicit civil rights protections for LGBT employees on the books, despite existing laws like Title VII. 
And because courts may not interpret this ruling evenly, the organization fears rulings such as this won’t be an effective deterrent to sexual orientation-based discrimination. Esseks said that would be especially true in public accommodations and federal funding:
“Employers as well as employees deserve the clarity that comes with express federal and state protections that everyone understands. That’s why we’ll continue to work for express and comprehensive protections. The EEOC ruling is a monumental step forward and provides important protections for millions of Americans, and that’s something to celebrate.”

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