California workers may be entitled to pursue legal action whenever they believe they suffered any type of workplace discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 established that employers may not refuse to hire, terminate or otherwise discriminate against an employee based on race, religion or sex, in addition to creed or country of origin. However, at present the Act does not specifically address employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In response to several lawsuits filed by employees regarding sexual orientation and Title VII, the Department of Justice filed a brief with the courts that states that discrimination against members of the LGBT community is not covered under the Act. The law does spell out that discrimination against women based upon pregnancy or any medical conditions related to such is unlawful. However, it does not mention any type of discrimination based upon sexual preference.
That has not prevented some judges from offering the opinion that sexual orientation is covered under this federal provision. Several judges have written opinions that appear to interpret the law as applying to those who dress, act or behave differently or who date or enter into a same-sex relationship. However, most appeals based on these decisions have been overturned because the law does not specifically address protection from this type of discrimination.
The DOJ stated in its filing that the matter is one that Congress must address rather than the courts. Until that happens, the DOJ and several appeals courts may continue to opine that courts cannot rule on these types of employment discrimination suits unless the law is amended to specifically address this issue. However, California employees who have faced this or any other discrimination are assured of the right to consult with an employment law professional who can assess their case and the available options to seek the best resolution possible.
Source: mcknights.com, "Sexual orientation dispute takes new turn", David Barmak and Betty Frandsen, Sept. 8, 2017