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2nd Circuit ruling could alter interpretation of Title VII

Texas employers aknow that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects against various forms of discrimination against employees. Under Title VII, employers are not allowed to discriminate based on sex. However, there was some debate as to whether this applied to sexual orientation. Now, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit has ruled that this is the case.

The opinion reasoned that discrimination based on sexual orientation is at least partially motivated by sex. Although the 2nd Circuit had come to a different conclusion on this matter in the past, the opinion noted that positions can evolve over time. In the past, the predominant view was that sex relied to gender only. The court's ruling came in a case involving a skydiving instructor who claimed that he was fired after revealing to a client that he was gay.

Although the decision is only relevant to states within the 2nd Circuit, it may lay the groundwork for a decision by the Supreme Court. Currently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Justice have differing opinions regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation. The EEOC believes that Title VII protects against it while the DOJ believes otherwise.

Workers may have been the victim of sexual discrimination if they were demoted or terminated because of their sexual orientation. Because this is an evolving area of the law, though, it is unclear how courts in other areas of the country will rule on the subject. In the meantime, people who have been the target of this type of behavior might want to meet with an employment law attorney and discuss their situation.

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