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The EEOC’s Position: Discrimination Because of LGBT Status is Discrimination Because of Sex - Labor and Employment Law News

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Labor and Employment Law News


Posted on: Dec 22, 2014

By Jonathan Bryant, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

In our final entry (see below for previous posts), we consider the other efforts by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to protect the equal employment opportunities of LGBT individuals. Soon after the Macy decision, the commission issued its Strategic Enforcement Plan. The plan focuses and coordinates the EEOC’s programs with the aim of reducing and deterring discriminatory employment practices. Among other things, the commission determined to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment opportunity law and specifically identified “coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions, as they may apply” as an emerging issue.

Between January 2013 and June 2014, the EEOC’s enforcement activity recovered nearly $3 million for individuals alleging LGBT discrimination. In addition, commission staff conducted more than 350 outreach events discussing LGBT discrimination issues.

When public education efforts and the administrative process aren’t enough, the EEOC will litigate. On September 25, 2014, the commission filed two lawsuits alleging discrimination against transgender females in violation of Title VII. In the commission’s case against Lakeland Eye Clinic, P.A., the commission alleges that the employer terminated a satisfactorily performing employee because she began presenting as a woman. Similarly, in its case against R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc., the commission alleges that the employer terminated a long-term funeral director despite adequate performance because she started transitioning to the gender of her identity.

The last several years have seen significant progress for the LGBT community and increasing coverage of LGBT-related discrimination under existing anti-discrimination laws. Guided by its Strategic Enforcement Plan, the EEOC seeks to forge equal employment opportunities for all, including those among the LGBT community who continue to suffer unlawful employment discrimination because of their sex. The commission has worked to further this mission through education, investigation and litigation.

These developments – and others affecting the LGBT community – preceded the Seventh Circuit’s order deleting reference to conflicting law based on an opinion from 1984. We started this series wondering what we should make of the modification. We won’t know until the court addresses the issue directly again, but the amendment signals that claims alleging sexual orientation discrimination may be actionable under Title VII in the Seventh Circuit.

Per IndyBar Board policy, only the current blog post is publicly available. IndyBar members have access to all section and division postings by logging in to the website. Previous posts in this series will be viewable in PDF format. See below for previous entries in this blog series: 

Week 3

Federal Sector Cases Illustrate the Law's Development

Week 2

The Law's Development Since the 80s

Week 1

In a Small Step, Seventh Circuit Signals Greater Recognition of Title VII Rights of LGBT Employees

This post is authored by Jonathan Bryant, Trial Attorney for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in its Indianapolis District Office. The views expressed in this post are his own, not necessarily those of the Commission. You can email him at Jonathan.Bryant@eeoc.gov.

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