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Employment Discrimination Blog

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Georgia Employee Fired for Being Gay Asks Court of Appeals to Reconsider Ruling

Is it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on sexual orientation?

Attorneys representing a Georgia lesbian who claims she was fired for being gay are now asking the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to rehear the case en banc.  In the case of Evans v Georgia Regional Hospital, et al., plaintiff Evans states that she worked at Georgia Regional Hospital, where her supervisor targeted her for termination due to her status as a self-described “gay female.” Evans lodged several complaints to upper management which were met with inquiries as to her sexuality, leading Evans to infer that her sexual orientation was the cause of her termination. Evans filed a discrimination lawsuit against the hospital in Savannah in 2015 claiming she was unlawfully discriminated against due to her sexual orientation and failure to conform to gender stereotypes.

History of the Case

The lower court rejected Evan’s claims of discrimination, finding that discrimination based on sexual orientation does not violate existing federal laws.  The appellate court, with a three-judge panel, affirmed the opinion of the lower court.  Now, attorneys for Evans are calling for a rehearing by the entire court, known as an en banc rehearing.  Evans urges that the appellate court’s decision ignores the sea of change in laws that have come since the creation of Title VII.  Further, Evans points to existing case precedent that confirms it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on gender stereotypes.

Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Sexual orientation discrimination includes being harassed, terminated, or treated differently in your workplace due to your real or perceived sexual orientation.  Sexual orientation discrimination is illegal in some areas, but not on a national level.  Federal laws protect people from workplace discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, religion, national orientation, and disability, but not specifically sexual orientation, except for federal government workers.

In recent years, however, many courts have been willing to extend protection to gay and lesbian employees who were victims of sex discrimination because they did not conform to gender stereotypes.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has advocated that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, which is what Evans has urged the Georgia appellate court to consider.  Employees in Georgia should follow the outcome of the Evans case is it could impact discrimination laws in the state.


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