The US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied an en banc petition asking the full court re-hear a Georgia anti-LGBT discrimination case — so Lambda Legal is going straight to the top.
On July 6, Lambda Legal announced its plans to appeal the case to the US Supreme Court.
The case in question is that of Jameka Evans, a security guard harassed at work and “effectively terminated from her job” because she is a lesbian and did not conform to gender norms in her appearance and demeanor, according to a statement from Lambda Legal.
“We plan to take this to the Supreme Court. This extremely troubling decision does not slow the momentum that is building behind our efforts to combat employment discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual workers in the courts,” said Greg Nevins, counsel and employment fairness strategist for Lambda Legal. “We will continue to press the legally correct argument, recognized by so many other courts, that the Civil Rights Act protects all workers against sexual orientation discrimination, whether they are gender-conforming in particular ways or not.”
In April 2015, Evans filed suit against her former employer, Georgia Regional Hospital, claiming it violated Title VII via gender-based discrimination. The US District Court in Georgia dismissed her complaint, claiming Title VII does not offer gender-based protections. In January 2016, 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.” Less than a year later, in March 2017, the three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit denied Evans’ claim.
The American Civil Liberties Union also filed a “friend of the court brief” on Evans’ behalf at that time, asking for the full Eleventh Circuit to hear her case.
This isn’t the first time the courts have been asked to interpret the Civil Rights Act in terms of gender-based discrimination. According to the statement from Lambda Legal, earlier this year the Seventh Circuit ruled a community college violated the act by firing an instructor because she was a lesbian, and in May the Second Circuit Court of Appeals granted en banc review of the case of a New York skydiving instructor who was fired for being gay.
“My job was important tome and I was good at it, but because I was a lesbian my supervisor zeroed in on me and punished me,” Evans said in the Lambda statement. “Now I have not only been let down by my employer, I have been closed off from justice by a court that is supposed to protect my rights. It’s not right. Something needs to change.”
Nevins said until all federal courts equate sexual orientation discrimination with sex discrimination, Congress should “do what it did with pregnancy discrimination — pass an amendment to clarify that it is a form of sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act.”