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Judge draws parallel between race, sex discrimination

Texas employees may be interested in a ruling made by a federal court judge who compared anti-gay discrimination to racial discrimination. It was made by a Pennsylvania judge who is hearing a case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of an employee who claimed that repeated harassing comments pertaining to his sexuality constituted a hostile work environment.

The judge ruled that the case could proceed because Title VII prohibits sex discrimination. However, she also noted a parallel with racial discrimination. Since discriminating against a person on the basis that their partner is of another race is illegal, she argued that discriminating against a person on the basis of their partner's sex should be similarly illegal. Other cases have drawn similar parallels with transgender employees and religious discrimination in arguing that discriminating against an employee for changing gender is analogous to discriminating against an employee on the basis of changing religions.

In a number of cases, the EEOC has put forth the argument that discriminating against a person on the basis of sexual orientation is the same as sex discrimination. In 1989, the Supreme Court ruled that an employer could not compel a female employee to appear more feminine, and the EEOC has extended this to include not just appearance but sexual attraction.

Many workers are unaware of their rights, or they may fear pursuing them because they are afraid of losing their jobs. In other cases, employees might be terminated because of their sexual orientation, gender, race or for other reasons. Those who feel they are facing workplace discrimination might want to speak to an attorney about the steps that should be taken. After getting an understanding of their rights, they may then want to speak to a supervisor or human resources. If this is unsuccessful, they might want to file a claim with the EEOC.

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