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Court rules LGBT workers protected under federal law

On Feb. 26, a New York federal appeals court ruled that federal law forbids employers from discriminating against workers based on their sexual orientation. It is the second federal court to hand down such a ruling.

The case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit involved a skydiving instructor who claimed he was wrongfully terminated in 2010 for being gay. According to court documents, the man's job at a Central Islip skydiving school required him to strap himself to students and skydive with them. On one occasion, he told a female client not to be concerned about their close physical proximity because he was gay. Her boyfriend complained to the skydiving school, and he was fired. The plaintiff died in a 2014 skydiving accident.

The court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, protects LGBT workers from discrimination. It found that discrimination based on sexual orientation is essentially discrimination based on a worker's sex, and, therefore, a violation. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission argued on behalf of the plaintiff's position, but the Department of Justice argued against it. The decision applies only to jurisdictions in the 2nd Circuit, but the case could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit also ruled that the Civil Rights Act protects LGBT workers from discrimination.

New York workers who experience discrimination based on sexual preferences could speak to an employment discrimination attorney about their legal options. In some cases, the first step might be the filing of a claim with the EEOC.

Source: CBS News, "Federal court rules anti-discrimination law covers sexual orientation", Feb. 26, 2018

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