11th Circuit Rules That Title VII Does Not Prohibit Sexual Orientation Discrimination

In a 2-1 decision, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not prohibit employers from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sexual orientation. Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 4301, 2017 WL 943925 (11th Cir. Mar. 10, 2017). The decision throws a counterpunch to several recent rulings by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and district courts that concluded otherwise.

On appeal, the 11th Circuit reviewed an order from the District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, which dismissed a lesbian plaintiff’s Title VII claims against her former employer, with prejudice. Ultimately, the 11th Circuit vacated and remanded the plaintiff’s claim for discrimination based on gender non-conformity; however, the Court upheld the dismissal of her claims for retaliation and discrimination based on sexual orientation. Each of the three judges on the 11th Circuit panel separately discussed whether or not Title VII prohibits sexual orientation discrimination. U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez wrote the opinion of the court. Meanwhile, former Supreme Court hopeful, Circuit Judge William H. Pryor Jr., and Circuit Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum directly sparred in their respective concurring and dissenting opinions.

For the full story, access the April 2017 issue of LGBT Law Notes.