Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) is a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. It generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments. Title VII also applies to private and public colleges and universities, employment agencies, and labor organizations.

The Federal Courts are currently split as to whether Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, with most Circuits finding that it does not.

Late last month, the United States Supreme Court declined to review a case out of the Eleventh Circuit that upheld the trial court’s decision to dismiss the case of a lesbian security guard who alleged that she was fired because of her sexuality in violation of Title VII. Earlier in 2017, the Seventh Circuit deviated from the other circuits when it found that an Indiana professor could maintain a Title VII claim against her employer based on her allegation that she was discriminated against because she is a lesbian.  Many were hoping that the Supreme Court would take up the Eleventh Circuit case and settle this issue once and for all. 


While there is still no consensus among the Federal Courts as to whether discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates Title VII, California law is clear on the subject. Among many other protected classes, The Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA") prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. FEHA also makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for protesting illegal discrimination related to sexual orientation discrimination. Accordingly, employers must not deny an employee a promotion, issue poor performance reviews, harass, retaliate against, or terminate an employee because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.  Please contact the experts at The Saqui Law Group if your Company is facing allegations of discrimination or if you have questions about your Company’s anti-discrimination policies or training.

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