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  • Writer's pictureDavid Manes

Full LGBT Employment Rights are Coming Soon

A lot of people are shocked to learn that in most places, you can be fired from your job just for being gay. Although federal law protects all Americans from employment discrimination on the basis of race, age, disability, religion, and sex, most courts have refused to extend protections to LGBT employees. That is about to change, and a new decision this month out of Pittsburgh is a sign that this will be the next big area of employment litigation.

In Pennsylvania for instance, LGBT employment protections only exist in a few places like Allegheny County and Philadelphia. Gay workers in most suburban or rural counties must suffer the most toxic abuse imaginable without any legal protections. They can even be fired specifically because the boss “doesn’t like gay people,” or because the boss “doesn’t want to have any faggots working here.”  Stories like that are shocking. Unfortunately, we hear them all the time.

“It breaks my heart to hear stories of blatant anti-gay discrimination,” says KM&A’s Managing Partner David Manes, “especially when I have to tell them the law isn’t there to back them up.”

Dale Baxley’s Story

Dale Baxley, a gay man working at Scott Medical Health Center in Pittsburgh, was forced out of his job after enduring humiliating homophobic abuse. His manager, Robert McClendon, constantly abused Baxley as a “fag,” “faggot,” “fucking faggot,” and “queer.” Baxley tried to stand up for himself by filing internal complaints and even going to the President of the facility, but the company did nothing. McClendon bullied Baxley until he had chased him away from the medical center.

Baxley filed a complaint with the EEOC, and he was probably told that the case would be an uphill battle. But thanks to Judge Bissoon’s ruling, Baxley may be on the way to setting a precedent that would protect millions of LGBT workers in the United States.

Federal Law

Everyone agrees that Title VII prohibits discrimination “because of sex.” For years, most courts interpreted that phrase to apply only to male/female discrimination, not to LGBT discrimination. Increasingly though, courts are starting to realize that LGBT workers suffering discrimination precisely because of their sex, the sex of their partners, or sex-related stereotypes.

Judge Bissoon’s decision out of Pittsburgh in November 2016 is a clear win for LGBT employment rights. Her opinion states that “[t]he Court sees no meaningful difference between sexual orientation discrimination and discrimination ‘because of sex.'”

Based on this decision and the overall progress of gay rights, we should expect soon to see Title VII cover LGBT employees across the country.

The Human Rights Campaign praised the decision: “This is an important win for LGBTQ equality. Judge Bissoon’s decision affirms that discrimination against an individual based on their sexual orientation is fundamentally a form of discrimination based on sex — which is prohibited by federal law. We congratulate the EEOC and the plaintiff on this victory.”

KM&A is proud to fight every day on behalf of employees. We stand firmly on the side of the EEOC and regular people like Dale Baxley, and we battle against discrimination in any form. We are also excited to be able to help even more LGBT employees in the future as federal protections are extended. You can contact us for more information at any time.

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