New York residents may be aware that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides protections for workers against discrimination based on their race, religion, color, national origin or sex. However, there has been some legal confusion about how the act protects gay workers against discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sought to clear up any confusion on July 15 by ruling that lesbian, transgender, gay or bisexual workers are protected by the provision against discrimination based on sex contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
While the EEOC ruling is not necessarily binding on courts hearing these types of matters, it is hoped that the agency's unambiguous position will provide needed guidance for judges. Many judges have been reluctant to provide protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation using a decades old law, and they point out that it is primarily the job of legislators to ensure that the nation's laws reflect changing social values.
The EEOC ruling states that discrimination against LGBT workers is based on sex even when it is not based on gender, and the agency points out that it is impossible to discriminate against a worker based on their sexual orientation without taking their sex into account. Gay rights advocates welcomed news of the ruling, but they urged lawmakers to eliminate any remaining confusion by drafting new legislation.
Many workers are hesitant to take action over workplace discrimination or sexual harassment because they feel that it would be difficult to prove their case or they worry that their employers may retaliate against them. An employment law attorney can explain how the the victims of workplace discrimination or harassment may seek civil remedies. Legal counsel can also point out the laws that contain provisions designed to prevent and punish employer retaliation.