As previously reported, legal developments and protections for same-sex marriage and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees have been fast and furious.
Most importantly and recently, on July 21 President Obama issued an Executive Order banning discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. See http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/07/21/executive-order-further-amendments-executive-order-11478-equal-employmen. This affects roughly 20 percent of the U.S. workforce.
In addition, the EEOC and plaintiffs’ lawyers have been successfully pursuing claims on the theory that discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity is equivalent to sex discrimination, as any such discrimination is based on an employee’s failure to conform with gender stereotypes as to sexual partners and/or gender identity. The most recent success in this respect is Barrett v. Pennsylvania Steel Co. In that case, decided this month, a federal judge in Philadelphia ruled that the alleged mocking of a gay office worker, including references to him as “Mary” and “gay” by male coworkers, was sufficient to establish that the same-sex harassment was based on his failure to conform to male gender stereotypes, and thus a violation of federal and state laws against sex discrimination. It is the latest in a long line of cases expanding the coverage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Michael Homans is a Labor & Employment attorney and founding partner of HomansPeck LLC. For more employment law updates, including news and links to important information pertaining to legal developments that may affect your business, subscribe to Michael’s blog, or follow him on Twitter @EmployLawUpdate.