California laws provide protection from employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is defined to include homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality. California law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of both gender and gender expression, which includes gender-related behaviors regardless of whether the behaviors are associate with the gender that someone has been assigned at birth.
While California laws prohibit employers from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, the federal government has not yet passed a law explicitly barring discrimination against people on the basis of homosexuality or sexual identity. Courts and administrative agencies, however, have continually expanded the protections available under federal law with the goal of ensuring that no one is deprived of opportunities on the basis of their LTBTQ status.
Courts Continue to Extend Protections from Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) explains that Title VII of the civil rights act does not explicitly provide protection from discrimination on the basis of either gender identity or sexual orientation.
However, EEOC’s strategic enforcement plan adopted in 2012 held discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals is an enforcement priority for 2013 through 2016 because discrimination against these individuals can be considered prohibited sex discrimination under Title VII. In 2015, a total of 603 charges of discrimination were brought on the basis of LGBTQ status, resulting in 506 resolutions. This is down from 1,093 charges brought in 2014 and down from the 846 resolutions in 2014.
The expansion of EEOC’s involvement in cases of discrimination on the basis of sexual identity or gender identity has been important to those who suffer adverse employment actions due to who they are. Any victims of employment discrimination based on LGBTQ status should consult with an experienced employment discrimination lawyer to find out what options they have for taking legal action to hold employers accountable.
Now, courts are also taking a cue from decisions made on Title VII and expanding protections against discrimination on the basis of sexuality even further. Los Angeles Times, for example, reported that a federal judge within California has now ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation should fall under the purview of Title IX. While Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment, Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in schools and colleges throughout the United States. By extending Title IX to apply to provide protections for discrimination based on sexual orientation, students can now get the same benefits of federal protections that employees have been taking advantage of in recent years.
The case arose after two former player on the basketball team at Pepperdine University claimed the school harassed and discriminated against them because they were dating. The U.S. District court judge said the players could bring a claim under Title IX because discrimination based on sexual orientation isn’t a separate category of discrimination from discrimination on the basis of sex or gender.
As The LA Times indicates, this decision draws “on evolving views of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.” It is also a significant ruling that could provide much needed protections for college students as long as there is no federal law otherwise protecting them from discrimination on the basis of LGBTQ status.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.
Denial of Same-Sex Spousal Benefits Sparks Lawsuit Against Chain, Aug. 2, 2015, Orange County Employment Attorney Blog