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DOJ takes position that Title VII does not protect gay workers

Employers in Texas and around the country are prohibited from discriminating based on race, religion, color, race or national origin by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but a contentious legal debate has raged in recent years over whether or not these protections should be expanded to cover gay workers. While President Obama made clear during his two terms in office that he believed that gay workers should be protected by the landmark law, Congress and the federal courts have generally been reluctant to act on the issue.

The situation was clarified somewhat on July 26 when the Department of Justice intervened in a case involving a man who claims that he was fired by a New York City company because he was gay. The DOJ stepped into the case even though the government was not involved. The department's filing states that Title VII does not protect gay workers and only applies in workplace cases when women and men have been treated differently.

Groups advocating on behalf of the LGBT community have condemned the DOJ intervention and the Trump administration's position on gay issues. On the same day that the DOJ filed its brief in a New York federal appeals court, President Trump tweeted that transgender individuals would no longer be allowed to serve in the United States military.

Attorneys with employment law experience will likely understand that court action always involves a degree of uncertainty even when the facts in the case seem clear, and they may seek to settle discrimination matters quickly to save their clients both time and money. Discrimination in the workplace can lead to negative publicity and severe sanctions for employers, and attorneys could point this out during settlement negotiations.

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