Yes or no? Are LGBT workers protected by federal law or not?

On Behalf of | Aug 1, 2017 | Employment Litigation |

The debate rages on.

Title VII of the seminal Civil Rights Act passed by Congress in 1964 extended workplace protections against discrimination on myriad grounds.

Notably, protection for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community was not included in the list of safeguarded categories, and that continues to be the case today. A recent article in the New York Times notes that “every Congress since 1974 has declined to add a sexual-orientation provision to Title VII.”

Notwithstanding the failure to so do, however, social mores and the country’s cultural landscape have shifted seismically from bygone decades, to the point where many Americans nowadays simply assume — wrongly, as it turns out — that federal law does protect the LGBT community from discrimination at the workplace.

Recent developments have promoted such understanding. The Times notes, for example, a 2014 memorandum penned by then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stating that his department — the U.S. Department of Justice — would assume in all cases before it that Title VII did extend anti-discriminatory protections to individuals based on gender identity. And a year later the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a rule holding that sexual orientation-based discrimination was flatly illegal.

The EEOC is an agency, though, not a court, and the DOJ now challenges notions that federal law does in fact protect workers from gender-identity discrimination. The Justice Department intervened last week in an ongoing federal case (as a so-called “friend of the court” in an amicus brief) to seek clarification and express the current administration’s position that, “Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts.”

Employment discrimination is a volatile and often complex realm, regardless of the allegations in play in a given case. An employer or worker with questions or concerns regarding any matter relating to workplace discrimination can contact a proven employment law firm for answers and, when necessary, diligent legal representation.

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