Sexual Orientation Now Protected Under Title VII

December 14, 2016
Posted in Employment Law
Sexual Orientation Now Protected Under Title VII

Last year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) made it known that it was interpreting and enforcing Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination as forbidding employment discrimination based on gender identity and/or sexual orientation. For many years prior, the EEOC and the courts did not consider discrimination based on sexual orientation as discrimination based on sex and therefore not protected under Title VII. Until recently, no Pennsylvania court had weighed in on the issue. However, recently a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania held that Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation. In the case of EEOC v. Scott Medical Health Care Center, Judge Cathy Bissoon specifically held that Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Judge Bissoon’s decision is consistent with the EEOC’s interpretation and follows a trend across the country broadening the scope of Title VII to protect gay and lesbian workers. While the decision is not controlling over all courts in Pennsylvania, considering the EEOC’s position and the recent rulings in our federal courts, employers would be wise to proceed as if discrimination based upon sexual orientation is in fact an unlawful employment practice.

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