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EEOC argues sexual orientation is sex discrimination

New York employees may be please to hear that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is fighting to have sexual orientation be protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC argued that, although Title VII does not specifically name sexual orientation as a protected class, sexual orientation is in fact sex discrimination, which is protected under that federal law.

In an amicus brief filed in a case that is before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, the EEOC made several statements regarding Title VII's omission of sexual orientation. It was argued that sexual orientation discrimination allowed employers to discriminate against those who did not conform to the employer's expectation of how men and women were supposed to act. Additionally, discriminating against one's sexual orientation also was associational discrimination. Employers cannot discriminate against those who have partners of a different race. Therefore, it makes sense that employers cannot discriminate against those who have same-sex partners.

The plaintiff in the case in question claimed that she was fired from her job for simply being a lesbian. The EEOC has made similar arguments in the past. In 2015, for example, the EEOC commissioners' ruling stated that sexual orientation discrimination was illegal under Title VII. With this case, the EEOC was signalling the intention to expand the interpretation of what Title VII actually covers in terms of sexual orientation and sex discrimination.

Workplace discrimination can have an impact on an employee's performance and the ability to advance. In some cases, an employee may even lose his or her job or be passed over for a promotion. An employee who is a member of a protected class may want to meet with an employment law attorney to discuss the procedure involved in filing a claim with the EEOC.

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