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Court rules sexual orientation discrimination not protected

New York employees may be interested to learn that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has joined other circuits in ruling that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect employees against discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, the court did reaffirm that gender non-conformity and same-sex discrimination were still actionable under Title VII.`

In the case in question, a female employee who identified as a lesbian was working at a hospital as a security guard. She stated that, because she identified with the male gender by wearing a male uniform and haircut, she was denied equal pay. She also claimed that she was harassed and assaulted in addition to being subjected to a hostile work environment. She eventually resigned from her position after facing scheduling problems, shift changes and having her equipment tampered with.

The woman ultimately filed a lawsuit where she claimed that she was discriminated against due to her sexual orientation. The case first went to a magistrate judge who ruled that Title VII did not protect against sexual orientation discrimination. The case was dismissed by the district court. She then appealed the decision. Although she argued that the U.S. Supreme Court had held that sexual orientation-based discrimination claims were allowed under Title VII, the 11th Circuit held that her claims were not.

Although employees are protected against workplace discrimination under Title VII, there are many employees who still face working in a hostile environment based on their gender, race or age. If a worker experiences harassment or discrimination based on a protected category, an attorney may help file a lawsuit against the employer seeking appropriate compensation.

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