Gay and lesbian employees in New York and throughout the United States may already be protected against discrimination by Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964. An employee of the Federal Aviation Administration filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the summer of 2015 saying that he had faced a hostile environment and did not receive promotions because he was gay. The EEOC ruled that this type of discrimination was illegal based on Title VII, and the man was given 90 days to file a lawsuit.
The U.S. Department of Justice, in its defense of the FAA, did not attempt to argue that the man did not belong to a protected class. Its response to the lawsuit on Jan. 28 was an examination of whether or not the behavior directed at the man was discriminatory in a factual sense. Some experts believe that this signals an acceptance of the idea that gay and lesbian employees are protected by the Civil Rights Act.
Efforts to push anti-discrimination efforts through Congress that includes the LGBT population have stalled. However, both the EEOC and the Justice Department have proceeded as though the laws against sex discrimination also cover transgender discrimination.
As this case demonstrates, in order to file a lawsuit that alleges discrimination in the workplace, it is first necessary to belong to a protected class. For example, it is illegal to discriminate against a person due to their religion or race. While the first step in responding to discrimination in the workplace is often to try to resolve the situation by speaking to a supervisor or human resources, a person who finds themselves in such a situation may still want to consult an attorney first to ensure that they are part of a protected class.