The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia joined the national ACLU this week in filing a friend-of-the-court brief that argued Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The brief supports Jameka Evans’ request for a re-hearing of the Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital case, where she sued her employer for harassment in violation of Title VII. Evans lost her job because of her sexual orientation.
“The ACLU has long fought to end workplace discrimination in all of its forms, because no one should be fired from a job or harassed at work just for being themselves,” Andrea Young, executive director of ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement. “Bias against lesbian, gay and bisexual people turns on the sex-based expectation that women should be attracted only to men — and not women — and vice versa. Employers who take sexual orientation into account necessarily take sex into account — and sex discrimination in the workplace is clearly prohibited under the Civil Rights Act.”
Evans filed her Petition for Rehearing in March, asking all of the judges of the Eleventh Circuit to hear arguments on whether sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII. The filing came after a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit held that discrimination based on sexual orientation was not actionable under Title VII.
Her original lawsuit was filed in April 2015, arguing that Georgia Regional Hospital violated Title VII by discriminating against her because she is a lesbian, and because of her gender nonconformity with appearance and demeanor. That lawsuit was dismissed in the US District Court, and shortly after Lambda Legal got involved to file in the Circuit Court.
“My supervisor at Georgia Regional Hospital did not like that I was a lesbian who didn’t fit his stereotype of how a woman should look,” Evans said in a statement after the December Circuit Court hearing. “It is heartbreaking to know that no matter how good I was at my job, being a lesbian with a short haircut meant I would never be good enough.”
Evans wasn’t the first Georgian to challenge Title VII as it related to sex-based workplace discrimination. In 2011, Vandy Beth Glenn won a case against the Georgia General Assembly after it was determined she was fired for being transgender.
After the December hearing, Judge William Pryor — who joined in the Glenn decision — said Evans’ claim was “behavior-based,” not status-based, which required her to “show that the employer actually relied on her gender in making its decision.”