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Federal Agency Rules Workplace Discrimination on Grounds of Sexuality Illegal

Federal Agency Rules Workplace Discrimination on Grounds of Sexuality Illegal


The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTs

In another incredible victory for the American LGBT community, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC), the federal agency tasked with administering and enforcing civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, ruled that discrimination on the grounds of sexuality is illegal. The decision extends the workplace protections of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, building upon a 2012 decision which banned discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

The vote of 3:2 was divided along party lines, with the three Democrats on the commission carrying the decision. According to the New York Times, "The ruling applies to discrimination that may arise in hiring, firing and promotion decisions, and employees' working conditions, such as claims of workplace harassment." While the decision does not formally bind federal courts, Noam Scheiber reports that they often defer to the federal agencies when interpreting the law.

Following the Supreme Court's historic decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized marriage equality across the nation, activists have heralded the fight against discrimination as the next frontier for LGBT rights. Currently, only 22 states protect workers on the grounds of sexual orientation, a number which falls to 19 when looking at trans people. As Oscar-winning activist Dustin Lance Black wrote in a recent issue of Variety:

"Gay couples can legally wed on Sunday and be fired on Monday simply for placing a picture of their wedding on their work desk."

And Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign, adds that the uncertainty of LGBT Americans goes deeper, to housing, education, and lending. There are hopes, however, that, with this ruling, the groundwork will be set for further legal victories within these fields. The move seems to validate the belief that it is in the courts, rather than Congress, that progress will continue to be made. According to Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work:

"If you look at our movement's success, we are a lot better at litigating than we are at lobbying. We should take the E.E.O.C. decision and run with it by turning to the federal courts to win workplace protections in all 50 states."

To read the full story, visit the New York Times.

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