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Discrimination Against Gay Individuals

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Activist Push for Workplace Rights for LGBT

 Georgia is one of 29 states without laws that specifically protect LGBT citizens against discrimination in the workplace.  A gay couple could be married on a Saturday and fired on Monday because the couple’s employers are uncomfortable with their employee’s sexual orientation. In much of the state, this is perfectly legal behavior.

In the city of Atlanta, however, things are different. The Human Rights Campaign, a national advocacy organization that grades the inclusiveness of municipal governments, gave Atlanta a perfect score of 100 in 2013 and 2014, citing its nondiscrimination laws that include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and its creation of LGBT community liaisons.

Activists intend to push for workplace rights for LGBT state employees during the 2016 legislative session, even though similar legislation has failed to pass in previous sessions. There is reason to suspect that this session might be different, however. There is a change in public opinion and the measure now has 77 cosponsors, 17 of whom are Republicans. Jeff Graham, the executive director of Georgia Equality, which supports the bill, says “if a bill does not have Republican support, it’s not going to pass.” The proposed bill would only affect State employees. Private employers would still be permitted to make employment decisions based on their employees sexual orientation.

Other members of the State legislature are reintroducing measures meant to protect business owners' religious freedom. State Senator Josh McKoon the proposed legislation would protect religious rights against government interference. Critics claim it will give business owners a license to discriminate against minorities. Last March, the bill created much controversy until it was tabled following a contentious hearing. This divisive issue is very much in flux in the state of Georgia.

If you feel that your workplace rights have been violated, you need an experienced attorney who is aware of the changes occurring in our state’s laws to help guide you through the process.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Catholic School Being Sued by Homosexual Teacher

Is firing someone due to his or her intention to enter into a same-sex marriage the same as discriminating against him or her for sexual orientation?

An openly gay band teacher at a Catholic school in Georgia was fired from his position in 2014 after announcing that he would enter into a same-sex marriage.  The teacher is claiming that he was discriminated against due to his sexual orientation based on the recent landmark United States Supreme Court decision making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.  He has brought a civil action against the school in Federal court.

Flint Dollar was hired as a band teacher at Mount de Sales Academy in Macon, Georgia in April of 2011.  Dollar claims that during the hiring process he revealed to school officials that he was gay and living with his partner.  In May of 2014, Dollar announced to officials that he planned to marry his long-time partner later that year.  Dollar also made this announcement via Facebook.  Several weeks later, he was fired, even though he had just signed a contract for the 2014-2015 school year.

The school based the firing of Dollar on the fact that he intended to enter into a same-sex marriage, which violated the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Dollar claims that he was never aware that he could be fired for a behavior that violated church teaching and that other employees, such as those that are heterosexual and live with their partners prior to marriage, and those that are divorced, had not been fired, even though both activities clearly violate the teachings of the church.

Dollar alleges in his lawsuit that he was discriminated against due to his sexual orientation.  The school maintains that he was fired not due to his sexual orientation, but due to his intention to enter into a same-sex marriage in clear violation of church teaching.  The school cites to its goal of providing an education that is based on church doctrine and the local Diocese and other organizations, such as the Cardinal Newman Society and the Catholic University of America, have come out in support of the schools decision.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against due to your sexual orientation or any other protected characteristic, please contact Pankey & Horlock today.  Our team of Georgia employment discrimination lawyers can be reached at (770)670-6250.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Former Atlanta Fire Chief Claims Religious Discrimination Led to His Termination

Can I be fired for expressing my religious beliefs at work?

In a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran claims that the city discriminated against him because of his religion. The EEOC complaint could be an indication that Cochran plans to file a federal lawsuit against the city.

In November 2014, Cochran was suspended without pay in connection with a bible study book he wrote; the book contained controversial statements about homosexuality. According to Cochran's EEOC complaint, he was informed by city officials that his publication of the book violated unspecified city policies and that an investigation would be conducted.

When Cochran returned from his suspension, he was allegedly told that every city employee interviewed in the investigation reported that Cochran's faith influenced his leadership style. However, no employee reported specific examples of discrimination or being treated unfairly because of Cochran's religious beliefs.

Mayor Kasim Reed terminated Cochran earlier this month, stating that Cochran's "judgment and management skills were the subject of the inquiry" and that "Cochran's personal religious beliefs are not the issue." One issue raised is that Cochran distributed his book at work. Mayor Reed's decision to fire Cochran was reportedly supported by the Atlanta Professional Firefighters union.

Cochran asserts that he obtained authorization from the City's Ethics Department to publish the book, which expresses his "deeply held religious convictions on many subjects." He is claiming that the city violated his federal civil rights by discriminating against him because of his Christian religion. A rally in support of Cochran was held at the Georgia Capitol earlier this month, apparently organized by evangelical groups and leaders.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against at work, the experienced employment discrimination and civil rights attorneys at Pankey & Horlock, LLC, can advise you. We serve the entire state of Georgia. Contact us today at (770)670-6250 for a free case evaluation.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Gay Teacher Files Employment Discrimination Claim Based on Same-Sex Marriage

Under both federal and state employment law, Georgia employers are not prevented from hiring or firing on the basis of sexual orientation.  Or are they?

A complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by Flint Dollar, a gay former music teacher, may expand the boundaries of recent case law.  Dollar had never concealed his sexual orientation from his employer, Mount de Sales Academy, a Catholic school in Macon, Georgia, and the school had not made an issue of it.  But when he announced his plans to marry his longtime partner, school officials dismissed him.  They cited no problems with his past job performance or complaints from students or parents.  

While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex and national origin," it has never specifically prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  Attempts to claim that such cases are "sex" discrimination cases have rarely worked, because that prohibition has generally been held to cover only "gender" discrimination."

A recent Washington, D.C. case may have changed that, however.  In a suit against the Library of Congress, a gay plaintiff claimed that he was penalized for having a romantic interest in men, while women in the same office were not.  His lawyers argued that this disparate treatment was a form of gender discrimination.  A federal district court allowed the case to proceed, in spite of the Department of Justice's attempts to have it dismissed.

Now Dollar has filed his complaint with the EEOC alleging that firing him because of his decision to enter into a same-sex marriage is form of gender discrimination.  

While constitutional scholars continue to question whether sexual orientation falls within the scope of "sex" under Title VII, they acknowledge that the argument might work.  If successful, the Dollar case could change the legal landscape for gay victims of employment discrimination.

For over two decades, the attorneys of Pankey & Horlock, LLC have represented employees throughout Atlanta who have faced illegal discrimination in the workplace.  If you were treated unfairly during the hiring or firing process or during the course of your employment, you deserve justice and compensation for your suffering.  Contact our knowledgeable legal team to schedule your confidential free case evaluation.  Call (770)670-6250 today.



Friday, February 28, 2014

Georgia Government Considers Preservation of Religious Freedom Act

Georgia House Bill 1023 echoes the sentiments of a bill recently passed by Arizona government that allows businesses, individuals and other entities the right to discriminate against gay people.

The bill essentially gives people and businesses the power to act on their own personal prejudices without incurring any consequences. It exempts them from any government action or legal proceeding that "directly or indirectly constrains, inhibits, curtails, or denies the exercise of religion by any person or that directly or indirectly pressures any person to engage in any action contrary to that person's exercise of religion."

Due to the broadness of the language therein, the passing of this bill could result in a variety of negative after-effects, as it would permit those who discriminate with a way to escape any legal repercussions for their actions if they can somehow relate the situation to religion.

"The Preservation of Religious Freedom Act," was introduced last week in the Georgia House. Both the house (HB 1023) and Senate version, SB 377, would affirm the “right to act or refuse to act in a manner substantially motivated by a sincerely held religious tenet or belief whether or not the exercise is compulsory or a central part or requirement of the person’s religious tenets or beliefs. Where those beliefs conflict with local, state or federal law, the government would have to prove that the law is meant to pursue a “a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

Georgia state law doesn't include a ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, the city of Atlanta does have regulations which would be affected by this bill, as LGBT rights activists fear the proposed bill could essentially overwrite the existing ordinances.

The possible consequences the passing of this bill may inflict on the rights of individuals in Georgia and elsewhere scares associations like The Anti-Defamation League. Among their concerns: "it would allow law enforcement to refuse assignments that they find religiously offensive such as assisting or guarding a religious institution of a different faith, a pharmacy that sells prescription contraception, a liquor store, a butcher shop selling pork or beef,  or a casino"

Another concern: "It would allow public hospital employees including physicians, nurses, or administrators to refuse to assist patients, even on an emergency basis, or process any paper work that they find to be religiously offensive such as in-vitro fertilization, blood transfusions or psychiatric care."

Lastly, "It would allow any public employee adhering to an extremist religion, including Nation of Islam, Christian Identity, or Odinism to refuse providing service to an Asian, White, Black, Jewish or Hispanic person."


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