Zarda v. Altitude Express

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Status: Open
Court:
U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals
Issues: Anti-LGBT Rulings, Laws and Amendments, Employment and Rights in the Workplace

Lambda Legal filed an Amicus Brief in Zarda v. Altitude Express that rebuts the arguments against the Civil Rights Act’s coverage of sexual orientation discrimination made by four federal appellate judges this year in Lambda Legal’s cases.

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In September 2010, Zarda, a skydiver, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against his former employer, Altitude Express, Inc, alleging that the company violated the Civil Rights Act by discriminating against him because of his sexual orientation. The district court rejected his claim, saying that the Civil Rights Act does not protect him for bias he endured for being a gay man. Tragically, in October 2014, Zarda died in a base jumping accident in Switzerland.

In January 2017, Gregory Antollino argued an appeal on behalf of Zarda’s estate asking a three judge panel of the Second Circuit to revisit its precedent and hold that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination and therefore illegal under the Civil Rights Act. The three-judge panel denied Zarda’s claim in April 2017, but held that Zarda would be entitled to a new trial if the full Second Circuit agreed with his arguments about Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

In May, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit granted en banc review. 

For years, Lambda Legal has been explaining to courts that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, when properly understood, 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 U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in its finding in Baldwin v. Foxx extending the sex discrimination protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to discrimination based on sexual orientation.