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EEOC Rules That Workplace Sexual Orientation Discrimination Is Sex Discrimination Under Title VII Of The Civil Rights Act

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On July 16, 2015, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a decision that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation states a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964(Title VII).

Title VII prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The Human Rights Acts of several states specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Illinois is one of those states.

 Despite the fact that Title VII does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on “sexual orientation,” the EEOC has previously held that discrimination because a person is transgender, and claims by lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals alleging sex-stereotyping, state a sex discrimination claim under Title VII. See Macy v. Department of Justice, EEOC Appeal No. 0120120821 (April 20, 2012) and Veretto v. U.S. Postal Service, EEOC Appeal No. 0120110873 (July 1, 2011).

 In its July 16, 2015 Decision, the EEOC ruled that sexual orientation is inherently a “sex-based consideration,” and that an allegation of such is necessarily an allegation of sex discrimination under Title VII. The EEOC gave the following reasons. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is premised on sex-based preferences, assumptions, expectations, stereotypes, or norms. Sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination because it necessarily entails treating an employee less favorably because of the employee’s sex. Sexual orientation discrimination is also sex discrimination because it is associational discrimination on the basis of sex, and sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination because it necessarily involves discrimination based on gender stereotypes.

 The EEOC concluded that allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily state a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex. The EEOC stated that an employee could show that the sexual orientation discrimination he or she experienced was sex discrimination because it involved treatment that would not have occurred but for the individual’s sex; because it was based on the sex of the person(s) the individual associates with; and/or because it was premised on the fundamental sex stereotype, norm or expectation that individuals should be attracted only to those of the opposite sex.

 You can find this new EEOC Determination at EEOC Appeal No. 0120133080(July 16, 2015) at http://www.eeoc.gov/decisions.

Categories Employment Law Legal Updates



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