MEET MARK HORTON

“I never thought something like this could happen to me. I had spent a lifetime building my career and I never thought my stability hinged on being gay.” – Mark Horton

Mark Horton was a VP of Sales and Marketing for Celtic Healthcare when he was approached by an executive search firm hired by Midwest Geriatric Management (MGM), a competitor, to fill a similar position.

In April of 2016, Mark received a written job offer from MGM’s owners, Judah and Faigie (Faye) Bienstock. Mark accepted the offer on May 4th, and received an enthusiastic reply email from Faye Bienstock welcoming him to MGM. Based upon both the written offer and the enthusiastic reply, Mark decided to notify Celtic Healthcare that he would be leaving.

But then, in a subsequent email, Mark revealed to Bienstock that he was in a same-sex relationship. “My partner has been on me about [my MBA] since he completed his PhD a while back,” he wrote.

Five days later, Bienstock wrote to Mark, withdrawing his offer of employment. A month later, after Mark succeeded in tracking down his academic records and noticed that the MGM job remained open, he contacted the Bienstocks, and was informed they were considering other candidates.

MEET JAMEKA EVANS

Jameka worked as a security guard at Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah. At work, she was physically assaulted, harassed and denied equal pay and equal work because she is a lesbian.

"I remember on breaks just going into work closets and crying because I was so stressed out" from the harassment, Jameka says. "I took the stress home with me every day. I didn't sleep well. And I dreaded going to work."

But Jameka fought back with incredible courage and determination. In April 2015, she filed a lawsuit against her former employer in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.

EVANS V. GEORGIA REGIONAL HOSPITAL

The district court dismissed Jameka's complaint, ruling that she didn't have a case because, in its view, federal law doesn’t protect lesbian, gay or bisexual employees.

But Lambda Legal stepped in to support Jameka. We became her lawyers, and appealed her case to the Eleventh Circuit, arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act actually does protect her and other workers like her.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court ruling in March of 2017, and then the full Eleventh Circuit declined to rehear the case. That's when Jameka and Lambda Legal decided to head to the Supreme Court. In December of 2017, the Supreme Court declined.

But #OutatWork continues, for Jameka and the countless LGBT people and people living with HIV who have experienced workplace discrimination.

Jameka Evans and Greg Nevins
Jameka Evans and Greg Nevins, Lambda Legal Counsel and Employment Fairness Project Director

Why It Matters

Everyone needs a job. The ability to put a roof over your head and feed your family is one of the most basic needs; freedom from discrimination in employment is an essential part of that.

Some courts have said that existing federal law prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual employees, while some haven't. Lambda Legal is dedicated to bringing this matter before the nation's highest court, to ensure that people everywhere are protected from employment discrimination because of their sexual orientation.

“Sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination because sexual orientation is defined by one’s sex in relation to the sex of those to whom one is attracted, making it impossible for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without taking sex into account.” (Zarda v. Altitude Express)

Mark Horton

WHOSE RIGHTS ARE AT STAKE

The fight for LGBT workplace protections is part of the larger struggle for jobs with dignity and justice. That includes protection against discrimination for people of color, immigrants, women, religious minorities, people living with HIV, people living with disabilities and more. It includes living wages and safe work conditions.

Nobody's rights are ensured until everyone's are ensured.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

If you or someone you know has experienced workplace discrimination (in hiring, firing, promotion, benefits or work conditions), or to learn more about the many ways work discrimination can impact someone, contact Lambda Legal’s Help Desk.