76 Businesses, Legal Scholars & Leading LGBTQ Rights Organizations Join Lambda Legal's Push to End Discrimination Against LGBTQ Employees

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Jameka Evans
October 11, 2017
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Today 76 businesseslegal scholars and the nation’s leading LGBT rights organizations joined Lambda Legal in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to finally decide whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits sexual orientation discrimination on the job.

The unprecedented advocacy from many of the nation’s top businesses for anti-discrimination protection is one of several friend-of-the-court briefs submitted in support of Lambda Legal's petition asking the Court to hear the case of Jameka Evans, a Savannah security guard who was harassed at work and forced from her job because she is a lesbian.

The petition seeks a nationwide ruling that sexual orientation discrimination violates Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination.

Jameka's story, in her own words.

“The nation’s top corporations recognize that discrimination is bad for business,” said Greg Nevins, Employment Fairness Project Director for Lambda Legal. “When workers can bring their whole selves to work, they can focus on their jobs rather than needing to look over their shoulders worrying about whether will get fired.”

“It’s time for LGBT people everywhere to be protected against employment discrimination. The ability to put a roof over your head and feed your family is one of the most basic needs, and freedom from discrimination is an essential part of that,” Lambda Legal CEO Rachel B. Tiven said. “We need the highest court in the land to review this case, consider the vital rights at stake, and settle the issue once and for all to ensure that getting or keeping a job shouldn’t depend on your sexual orientation.”

Several federal courts have affirmed the argument that Title VII, when properly understood, protects LGBT employees. Most notably, the full Seventh Circuit overruled four of its precedents and ruled in April that Lambda Legal client Kimberly Hively could proceed under the Civil Rights Act with her claim that Indiana-based Ivy Tech Community College discriminated against her because she is a lesbian.

Last month, Lambda Legal argued before the full Second Circuit, which is reexamining two of its precedents in Zarda v. Altitude Express, the case of a New York skydiving instructor who was fired from his job because he was gay.

In April of 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 of the Civil Rights Act by discriminating against her because of her sexual orientation and her nonconformity with gender norms of appearance and demeanor. The district court dismissed the case.

In January of last year, Lambda Legal filed an appeal on Evans’ behalf, arguing that she must have her day in court, citing rulings by several federal district courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) finding that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination and thereby a prohibited employment practice.

On March 10, 2017, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit held that it was compelled by a 1979 ruling to reject Evans’ sexual orientation discrimination claim. Lambda Legal asked the whole court to rehear the case so that it could reexamine the 1979 precedent, but unlike the Seventh Circuit and Second Circuit, the full Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals declined to rehear the case on July 6.

On September 7, citing a clear conflict among the circuits as well as federal government agencies, Lambda Legal filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

Evans is part of Lambda Legal’s efforts to establish and enforce employment discrimination protection for all LGBT people and everyone living with HIV. In addition to the sexual orientation cases, these efforts include an historic win for transgender workplace rights in Glenn v. Brumby and the current lawsuit Karnoski v. Trump challenging the ban on transgender troops.

Lambda Legal launched Out at Work, a campaign to support Jameka Evans in her pursuit of justice, to bring awareness to LGBT people everywhere of their Title VII rights, and to assert that all people have the right to a job with dignity, free from repercussions for who they are or whom they love.