Employment Discrimination Blog

Friday, September 14, 2018

Court Rules GA Workers Not Protected from Firing Based on Sexual Orientation

Do Georgia employees have any recourse if they are fired for their sexual orientation?

Recently, a federal appeals court in Atlanta reaffirmed its holding that Georgia workers are not protected against workplace discrimination based on their sexual orientation. The decision stemmed from a lawsuit originally filed in 2016. In the suit, Gerald Bostock, a former child welfare services coordinator working near Atlanta, claimed he was fired for being gay. The case garnered significant local and national coverage because it dealt with the complex issue of whether Title VII protects workers from adverse action due to their sexual orientation. Our Atlanta employment discrimination lawyers discuss the facts of the case and its implications for employees statewide.

Facts of the Case

Gerald Bostock had worked in some capacity with Clayton County since 2003. He received positive performance evaluations. Bostock joined a gay softball league ten years later, in 2013, and he then found himself criticized by several higher ups with the County. In April of 2013, the County performed an audit of the funds Bostock managed, which he believes was the pretext for discriminating against him for his sexual orientation. Two months later, he was fired for “unbecoming conduct.”

Holdings of the Lower and Appellate Courts

A federal judge initially dismissed the case and a three judge panel in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. The panel stated that per existing case law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not bar employers from discriminating against employees due to their sexual orientation.

Reconsideration was denied by the full court, though two of the eleven judges dissented. The two dissenting judges expressed their opinion that Title VII should prohibit discrimination against gay and lesbian employees because the discrimination stems from the failure of gay employees to conform to the employer’s views on love.

Other Federal Circuits exploring similar issues have reached opposite conclusions. The 7th Circuit, for instance, found that civil rights laws clearly apply to gay and lesbian workers. Similarly, the 2nd Circuit held that Title VII does cover sexual orientation per evolving legal doctrines. Given the ever shifting laws regarding employment discrimination, Georgia employees who experience discrimination based on their sexual orientation should seek the assistance of an employment discrimination attorney right away.

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