The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals created a likely split in federal courts of appeals this week when it upheld a district court’s dismissal of a complaint alleging harassment on the basis of sexual orientation.
The 11th Circuit’s decision in Jameka Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital rested on the ground that discrimination on the basis of an employee’s sexual orientation is not prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Case No. 15-15234). The plaintiff in this case, a former hospital security guard, alleged that she was harassed because she is a lesbian and because she did not conform to gender norms. As precedent for its decision, the 11th Circuit cited to a 1979 case out of the 5th Circuit (Blum v. Gulf Oil Corp., 597 F.2d 926).
With a new year and a new presidential administration, the restroom access debate is a hot topic again.
On Feb. 22, 2017, the Trump administration withdrew the Obama-era directive to public schools that instructed schools to permit transgender students access to restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their expressed gender identity or risk violating Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination. The Trump administration clarified that its action in rescinding President Obama’s guidance was not an attack on the LGBTQ community, but an action taken on the premise that this is a state’s rights issue. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos explained in a statement: “We have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment…This is an issue best solved at the state and local level. Schools, communities, and families can find — and in many cases have found — solutions that protect all students.”
A St. Louis city ordinance took effect Feb. 13 protecting employees against discrimination on the basis of their “reproductive health decisions.” Ordinance 70459 prohibits employers from taking any adverse employment action — such as termination or demotion — against an employee due to the employee’s decision to use drugs, devices or medical services related to reproductive health that the employer does not agree with, including contraceptives, fertility treatments or abortion.
On July 28, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled in a precedential decision that existing civil rights laws do not protect against sexual orientation discrimination. Although it was a unanimous decision, the court expressed great displeasure and conflict with the “illogical” legal structure in which “a person can be married on Saturday and then fired on Monday for just that act.”
A team of Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale attorneys obtained a unanimous jury verdict in favor of client Edward Jones and one of its supervisors on all counts in defending the investment company against a former employee’s discrimination and whistleblower claims.
On Oct. 28, 2015, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District held that discrimination based on sexual orientation is not prohibited under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA).
James Pittman worked as a controller at Cook Paper Recycling Corp. and alleged he was harassed and eventually terminated because of his sexual orientation. Among other things, Pittman alleged that the president of Cook Paper called him derogatory names because of his sexual orientation. The trial circuit court dismissed Pittman’s claims last February, and he appealed.
In a groundbreaking ruling released recently, Unknown v. Anthony Foxx, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission confirmed that allegations of sexual orientation discrimination necessarily state a claim of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII).
In a concise, seven-page decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Muslim woman, Samantha Elauf, denied employment by clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch (“Abercrombie”) after wearing a headscarf to her interview. The plaintiff was denied employment because her headscarf violated Abercrombie’s “Look Policy” which described the image Abercrombie sought to project within its stores.
What is the Illinois Pregnancy Fairness Law?
Effective January 1, 2015, the Illinois Pregnancy Fairness Law provides workplace protections to all expectant mothers, regardless of an employer’s size. The Illinois Pregnancy Fairness Law amends the Illinois Human Rights Act, adding “pregnancy” as a protected class under state law. “Pregnancy” is defined broadly to mean “pregnancy, childbirth, or other medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.” Accordingly, effective 1/1/15, the IHRA prohibits discrimination on the basis of “pregnancy” against applicants and employees and also requires employers to provide accommodations to expectant mothers to enable them to perform the job the job held or sought unless the employer can establishing that doing so would cause an undue hardship on the ordinary operation of the business. The Illinois law also prohibits retaliation against individuals who exercise their right to an accommodation under the law.
By now, if you haven’t heard the name “Michael Sam,” you’ve probably been hiding under a rock somewhere. His name was constantly in the headlines of both sports and news media after he publicly announced he is gay. And for good reason. The former Mizzou football player and SEC Defensive Player of the Year could become the first openly gay player in the NFL. As many in the media struggled to find a new angle for the story, some questioned whether Sam’s sexual orientation would hurt his chances of being a high draft pick – or a draft pick at all. Some speculated that NFL teams may pass on Sam because of the real or perceived unrest it could create among his teammates.
Suppose Michael Sam goes undrafted – or in employment law terms – suppose NFL teams refuse to hire him because he is gay. What recourse would he have?