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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 15, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 50
SCOTUS dodges Title VII decision - Allows conflicting decisions to stand
Section One
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SCOTUS dodges Title VII decision - Allows conflicting decisions to stand

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by a Georgia security guard who said she was harassed and forced from her job because she is a Lesbian. By doing so, the high court passed up an opportunity to decide whether Title VII bans on discrimination based on sex also outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court announced without comment on December 11 that it would not hear an appeal in Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital. It was the second time in two weeks that the Supreme Court passed on taking a high-profile case involving LGBT rights. On December 4 the court declined to hear Turner v. Pidgeon, a Texas case involving spousal benefits for same-sex couples.

The effect of the high court's decision not to hear the appeal is to leave standing a lower court ruling against Jameka Evans, who had argued that workplace sexual orientation discrimination violates Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The case hinged on an argument that is currently being litigated in different parts of the country and has divided lower courts: whether Title VII, which bans employment discrimination based on sex, also outlaws bias based on sexual orientation. Title VII also bars employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces Title VII, ruled in 2012 that bias against LGBT workers violates the law. But in July, Donald Trump's administration argued the opposite in court.

The Evans lawsuit was brought by Lambda Legal on behalf of Jameka Evans in 2015. She charged that while she worked at Georgia Regional Hospital from 2012 to 2013, her supervisor tried to force her to quit because she wore a male uniform and did not conform to female gender stereotypes. She said the supervisor asked questions about her relationships, promoted a junior employee above her, and physically slammed a door into her body.

In March, the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the hospital, saying that only the Supreme Court can declare that Title VII's protections cover gay workers.

Represented by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, an LGBTQ legal advocacy group, Evans appealed to the Supreme Court. Her lawyers cited language in the high court's landmark 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage that discriminating against LGBT people diminishes their personhood.

'By declining to hear this case, the Supreme Court is delaying the inevitable and leaving a split in the circuits that will cause confusion across the country,' said Greg Nevins, Employment Fairness Project Director for Lambda Legal.

'But this was not a 'no' but a 'not yet,' and rest assured that Lambda Legal will continue the fight, circuit by circuit as necessary, to establish that the Civil Rights Act prohibits sexual orientation discrimination.'

Evans' suit was backed by nearly 80 companies, including Microsoft and Apple, as well as 17 states and the District of Columbia.

While the Supreme Court's decision not hear Evans' appeal leaves the 11th Circuit decision standing, it also leaves contradictory court decisions in place, including a 2nd Circuit Court ruling that Title VII does, indeed, bar discrimination against LGBT workers.

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SCOTUS dodges Title VII decision - Allows conflicting decisions to stand
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