WASHINGTON, D.C. — On July 15, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—the agency charged with enforcement of federal employment nondiscrimination laws—ruled that existing federal protections against discrimination on the basis of sex also protect gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers against employment discrimination based on their sexual orientation.
The Commission ruled that “allegations of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation necessarily state a claim of discrimination on the basis of sex.”
The ruling constitutes the EEOC’s official interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the primary statute governing employment discrimination claims against both public and private employers and will guide future EEOC enforcement of federal nondiscrimination laws.
Statement by National Center for Lesbian Rights Legal Director Shannon P. Minter:
“In this historic decision, the nation’s highest enforcement authority for federal employment nondiscrimination laws powerfully confirmed what those of us working to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people from workplace discrimination have long known and argued—that discrimination based on sexual orientation is sex discrimination.
This decision, which follows an earlier EEOC ruling that federal nondiscrimination laws protect transgender people, adds to the growing consensus among federal agencies and courts that existing federal laws prohibit workplace discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Every American, no matter where they live, is covered by these federal protections. Although LGBT people will not have true equality in employment, housing, and education until Congress enacts laws expressly protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, every LGBT person should understand that they already have these important protections available if they face discrimination or harassment at work.”