Fired for your sexuality? The law's now on your side

  • 06/04/2017
gay rights
Discriminatory employment practices are en route to becoming illegal (File)

As of this week, a person fired in the United States for their sexuality can now file a discrimination lawsuit and reasonably expect it to succeed.

In over half the states in the US, there have been no laws against discrimination of this kind.

The new measure was ruled this week in a Chicago federal appeals court, under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which means workers can’t be fired based on their sexual orientation.

While it's not the first court to decide this, it is the highest.

LGBQT advocates expect that the question of whether US civil rights law applies to LGBQT people will soon reach the Supreme Court, which has the power to overturn a series of non-discrimination laws, or lack thereof, in 50 states, as it did when same-sex marriage was legalised nationwide in 2015.

James Esseks, a director at the American Civil Liberties Union and an advocate for LGBQT protections said that while "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are protected under the federal civil rights law discrimination against LGBQT people is, by its very definition, sex discrimination"

"What's happening now in the courts is an emerging recognition that that's right".

A key argument from the ruling involved the case of Kimberly Hively who was improperly passed over for a teaching job in Indiana because she is a lesbian.

Chief Judge Wood wrote that Ms Hively "represents the ultimate case of failure to conform to the female stereotype- she is not heterosexual."

"Hively's claim is no different from the claims brought by women who were rejected for jobs in traditionally male workplaces such as fire departments, construction and policing."

Washington Post columnist Amber Phillips wrote that this means that if an employer decides it doesn't want a lesbian on its workforce, it is taking her sex into account, "because you can't understand what a lesbian is unless you understand that it's a woman who forms intimate relationships with a woman."

Ms Phillips said if she were a man who formed intimate relationships with a woman, this employer wouldn't have any problem with her, "so the only difference is the sex of the employee"

"That is sex discrimination. That's what the civil rights laws were designed to eradicate."