Employment Discrimination Blog

Monday, July 10, 2017

Second Circuit to Hear Gay Skydiver’s Employment Discrimination Suit

Does Title VII protect gay and lesbian people against employment discrimination?

Recently, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to rehear en banc the case of a skydiving instructor who claims his position was terminated because he was gay.  This New York case dates back to 2010 when Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, filed a lawsuit against his former instructor, Altitude Express, Inc.  In the employment discrimination suit, Zarda alleged that the company violated his civil rights under Title VII by discriminating against him due to his sexual orientation.  Zarda lost the case and was tragically killed in a base jumping accident some time afterward.  

On behalf of Zarda’s estate, the case was appealed, where a three-judge panel in the 2nd Circuit ruled against Zarda’s estate.  That decision was appealed, with lawyers for Zarda requesting a rehearing with all members of the circuit court.  Now, the 2nd Circuit has agreed to hear the issue and will reach a conclusion as to whether Title VII protects employees based on their sexual orientation. Historically, LGBTQ people have not been protected by Title VII in the 2nd Circuit, but the court may decide to overturn this precedent.

Title VII and Sexual Orientation

Courts across the nation have grappled with the decision as to whether Title VII protects employees against discrimination based on their sexual orientation.  The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued an important decision in which it decided to extend protections to discrimination due to one’s sexual orientation.  The court found that Title VII protects on the basis of sex stereotyping, and discrimination based on sexual orientation is indeed sex stereotyping.  

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court has also been requested to review the case of Jameka Evans, a lesbian who filed a discrimination lawsuit against Georgia Regional Hospital claiming she was harassed due to her masculine gender presentation.  More and more, judges across the nation seem inclined to reinterpret civil rights laws to protect lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees from employment discrimination. With employment discrimination laws constantly evolving, anyone in Georgia who believes they have been discriminated against in the workplace should contact an employment discrimination lawyer as soon as possible.

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