A federal judge in Alabama holds that Title VII covers sexual-orientation discrimination

From top left: Downtown from Red Mountain; Torii in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens; Alabama Theatre; Birmingham Museum of Art; City Hall; Downtown Financial Center.Who would have guessed that, in a state without a state administrative agency to accept discrimination charges, where only age discrimination is against state law, a federal judge would rule that sexual orientation is considered sex discrimination and, therefore, a violation of Title VII.

A groundbreaking decision.

Yes, late last month, Judge Myron H. Thompson, a federal judge in the Middle District of Alabama, adopted the EEOC’s view that “claims of sexual orientation-based discrimination are cognizable under Title VII.” You can view a copy of Judge Thompson’s opinion in Isaacs v. Felder Services, LLC here. EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum recaps the opinion in a recent blog post.

So, what next?

While the Supreme Court has recognized claims of sex stereotyping under Title VII, this is the first federal opinion of which I am aware that has upheld a claim of disparate treatment under Title VII based on sexual orientation. Meanwhile, earlier this week, Juliet Eilperin at the Washington Post reports here that President Obama has pledged his support to a bill that would amend Title VII to specifically protect sexual orientation. However, given the complexion of Congress right now, that amendment seems unlikely.

Still, expect the EEOC to continue to pursue claims of sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII until either the law is changed or the Supreme Court rules.

Image Credit: “Birmingham AL Montage” by SAM_0399.JPG: Polk540
Birmingham_Botanical_Gardens_-_Japanese_Garden_Torii.jpg: AuburnPilot
Alabama_Theatre.jpg: Melinda Shelton
BMA-2010-screen.jpg: ArtLibrn2011
Birmingham_city_hall_alabama_2010.jpg: acnatta
Wachovia_and_Regions,_downtown_Birmingham.jpg: Melinda Shelton
derivative work: AltairisfarSAM_0399.JPG
Wachovia_and_Regions,_downtown_Birmingham.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.