Finally! U.S. Supreme Court to Weigh in on Title VII LGBTQ+ Protection

Jason E. Reisman and Mark Blondman

Just this morning, the U.S. Supreme Court finally agreed to hear three cases from the circuit courts that split on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The basic question boils down to whether the word “sex” includes a protection for LGBTQ+ employees.

EEOC Initiative/Trigger. Though there have been efforts over the last 50+ years to seek such protection under Title VII, the true impact came from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC”) push beginning in 2012, when it issued an administrative ruling holding that gender identity discrimination constitutes sex bias and therefore is protected. As everyone probably knows, in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit jumped into the fray with both feet in 2017, finding that Title VII’s “sex” does indeed include sexual orientation. In fact, before the full Seventh Circuit heard that case, a three-judge panel on that court had stated that it was a “paradoxical legal landscape in which a person can be married on Saturday and then fired on Monday for just that act”—a reference to same sex marriage being legal. Continue reading “Finally! U.S. Supreme Court to Weigh in on Title VII LGBTQ+ Protection”

LGBT Protection under Title VII? “No,” Says Fifth Circuit Judge

Alix L. Udelson

Some 40 years ago, in Blum v. Gulf Oil Corp. (1979), the Fifth Circuit pronounced that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not prohibit sexual orientation discrimination. Despite the immense shift in the cultural and legal zeitgeists since then, including decisions from several federal appellate courts holding the exact opposite, the Fifth Circuit seized the opportunity in its recent decision in Wittmer v. Phillips 66 Company to reiterate—albeit in dicta—that the Blum decision remains the law of that Circuit, which covers Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

Nicole Wittmer, a transgender female, received a conditional offer of employment from Phillips 66. But Phillips 66 rescinded the offer when Wittmer’s background check revealed that she had been less than candid about her employment history during her job interview.

Wittmer then filed suit against Phillips 66 alleging transgender discrimination under Title VII. Continue reading “LGBT Protection under Title VII? “No,” Says Fifth Circuit Judge”