EEOC Rules that Existing Discrimination Laws Protect Sexual Orientation

Posted by Sean P. CecilJul 17, 20150 Comments

In a ruling issued July 15, 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that sexual orientation discrimination is prohibited by existing federal laws that forbid employment discrimination based upon sex. 

The ruling, which is only affects federal employee claims of discrimination, still has the potential to change policy nationwide- the EEOC is charged with enforcing various federal anti-discrimination laws, and investigators are assigned to cases of alleged employment discrimination in the workplace.  In some cases the agency actually pursues claims against employers on behalf of wronged workers. 

The EEOC's opinion regarding sexual orientation is contrary to the rulings of several circuit courts. Appellate court precedent states that sexual orientation is not among the list of prohibited bases for employment action, that Congress did not intend to eliminate anti-gay discrimination when it enacted Title VII, and that Congress has repeatedly refused to include sexual orientation to employment discrimination protections.

Only the United States Supreme Court can definitively end the question of whether workers will enjoy protection discrimination based upon their sexual orientation based on existing laws, but for now the executive branch has taken a big step in the right direction.

Here is a link to the full opinion.