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Lambda Legal Fights in Court for Security Guard Forced Out of Her Job for Being a Lesbian

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December 15, 2016
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Jameka Evans and Greg Nevins

Today the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in Lambda Legal’s case on behalf of Jameka Evans, a security guard who was harassed, punished and eventually forced to leave her job because she is a lesbian. This case, Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, has the potential to change the landscape for LGBT employees across the country.

Today’s argument comes two weeks after Lambda Legal appeared before the full 11-member U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Kim Hively, a college instructor fired from her job for being a lesbian. 

“For too long, LGBT employees have been forced to hide who they are at work for fear of backlash and discrimination. It is time for employers to recognize that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination, and is unlawful,” said Greg Nevins, Lambda Legal Counsel and Workplace Fairness Program Director.

“Georgia Regional Hospital targeted Jameka Evans for harassment and eventually forced her out of her job because she is a lesbian who doesn’t fit an employer’s stereotype about who women are—that is sex stereotyping and against the law,” he added.

In April 2015, Evans filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia against her former employer, Georgia Regional Hospital, arguing that the hospital violated Title VII by discriminating against her because of her sexual orientation and her nonconformity with gender norms of appearance and demeanor.

The district court dismissed Ms. Evans’ complaint, arguing that Title VII does not protect employees from such discrimination.

In January, Lambda Legal filed its brief with the Eleventh Circuit in its appeal of that ruling, arguing that Evans must have her day in court, because sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination under Title VII.

“My supervisor at Georgia Regional Hospital did not like that I was a lesbian who didn’t fit his stereotype of how a woman should look. It is heartbreaking to know that no matter how good I was at my job, being a lesbian with a short haircut meant I would never be good enough,” Jameka Evans said. “I’m here today because I believe you shouldn’t be afraid of being fired simply because of who you are and who you love.”

For years, Lambda Legal has been explaining to courts that Title VII protects LGBT employees. Three of Lambda Legal’s successful efforts in 2014, in federal courts in Seattle, Chicago, and Washington D.C., were cited by the EEOC in Baldwin v. Foxx. In 2011, the Eleventh Circuit agreed with Lambda Legal that the Georgia General Assembly violated Title VII when Vandy Beth Glenn was fired for being transgender.

Lambda Legal Counsel Greg Nevins is handling both the Evans case and the Hively case.