The Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) has ruled that existing laws prohibit workplace
discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In a 3-2 decision dated July 15, the
independent commission concluded that Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 extends to sexual orientation. EEOC Commissioner Chai
Feldblum voted with the majority.
“[A]llegations of discrimination on
the basis of sexual orientation necessarily state a claim of
discrimination on the basis of sex,” the commission
The complaint was filed by a
Florida-based air traffic control specialist who argued that he was
denied a promotion based on his sexual orientation.
The commission acknowledged that Title
VII does not explicitly prohibit workplace discrimination based on
“When an employee raises a claim of
sexual orientation discrimination as sex discrimination under Title
VII, the question is not whether sexual orientation is explicitly
listed in Title VII as a prohibited basis for employment actions. It
is not. Rather, the question for purposes of Title VII coverage of a
sexual orientation claim is the same as any other Title VII case
involving an allegation of sexual discrimination – whether the
agency has 'relied on sex-based considerations' or 'take[n] gender
into account' when taking the challenged employment action.'”
Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to
Work, praised the ruling, saying that it was “time for LGBT
advocates to retire the incorrect talking point that gay Americans
can get married at Noon and fired at 2:00 pm without legal recourse.
That kind of unlawful firing falls clearly under Title VII’s ban on
sex discrimination, and it is already illegal.”
While Title VII does bar religious
employers from discriminating on the basis of sex, it also exempts
them from the law's ban on religious discrimination. That is,
religious employers are free to hire along religious lines and use
religious beliefs in making employment decisions.