Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Starbucks and Viacom have joined 71 other companies in an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief supporting Georgia lesbian Jameka Evans in her efforts to ask the US Supreme Court to hear her case. Evans claims she was harassed in the workplace and fired from her security-officer position at Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah because she is a lesbian and wears her hair in an androgynous style. Lambda Legal is seeking a nationwide ruling affirming that sexual orientation discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, Freedom For All Americans and Out Leadership organized the amicus brief, which was filed Oct. 11.
“These companies are sending a powerful message to LGBTQ workers and their families that America’s leading businesses believe in equality,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow in a prepared statement. “Across the country, corporate leaders are speaking out because they know attacking LGBTQ employees isn’t just shameful — it also puts the families of their employees and customers at risk. LGBTQ people like Jameka are entitled to the full protection of the law, and must be affirmed, respected and protected in their workplace and beyond.”
Evans filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District Court of Georgia in April 2015.
“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 prior statement. “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.”
The US District Court in Georgia dismissed Evans’s complaint, claiming Title VII does not offer gender-based protections. In December 2015, Lambda Legal filed an appeal on Evans’ behalf, citing rulings by several federal district courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that show sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination and therefore is “a prohibited employment practice.” In March 2017, the three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit denied Evans’ claim. Lambda Legal then asked the whole Eleventh Circuit court to rehear the case, but the request was denied.
In September, Lambda Legal filed a petition asking the US Supreme Court to review Evans’ case. Court experts say the issue may be ripe for review because of a split among federal appeals courts, as the US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that anti-gay discrimination is a form of sex discrimination.
The 76 companies who signed the amicus brief are: AdRoll, Inc.; Affirm, Inc.; Airbnb, Inc.; AltSchool; American Airlines; Apple; BASF Corporation; Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Inc.; Betterment; Brandwatch; Caldwell Partners; Carnival Corporation; CBS Corporation; Celtra Inc.; Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company; Citrix Systems, Inc.; City National Bank; Coach, Inc.; Cornerstone Capital Inc.; Deutsche Bank; Diageo North America, Inc.; DoorDash, Inc.; Dropbox, Inc.; Eastern Bank; eBay Inc.; Edelman; The Estée Lauder Companies; Facebook, Inc.; FiftyThree, Inc.; General Assembly; Google LLC; Gusto; HopSkipDrive; IAC/InterActiveCorp; Indiegogo; Intel Corporation; Kargo; Levi Strauss & Co.; Linden Lab; LinkedIn; Lyft, Inc.; Mapbox; MassMutual; Mastercard International Inc.; Match Group, Inc.; Miami HEAT; Microsoft Corporation; Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; Morgan Stanley; National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC); NIO U.S.; OBOX Solutions; On Top of the World Communities, Inc.; Out Leadership; PayPal Holdings, Inc.; Pinterest; RBC Bank (Georgia), N.A.; RBC Capital Markets, LLC; RealNetworks, Inc.; Replacements, Ltd.; Rhapsody International Inc. d/b/a Napster; Rising Tide Brewing Company; Royal Bank of Canada; salesforce.com, inc.; Shutterstock, Inc.; Spotify USA Inc.; Starbucks Corporation; Sun Life Financial (U.S.) Services Company, Inc.; Tampa Bay Rays Baseball Ltd.; Thumbtack, Inc.; Trillium Asset Management; Uber Technologies, Inc.; Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical Inc.; Viacom Inc.; Weebly, Inc.; Witeck Communications
In addition to those companies, 10 nonprofit organizations issued an amicus brief in support of Evans. Those organizations are: GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders; National Center for Lesbian Rights; Anti-Defamation League; Family Equality Council; Freedom for All Americans; Human Rights Campaign; Legal Aid Society; Mazzoni Center; Outserve-SLDN; Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders; and The Trevor Project.