Lower court reminds us that LGBT rights remain limited in the Third Circuit, well, except…


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A few weeks ago, a Pennsylvania federal judge reluctantly ruled in this case that discrimination based on sexual orientation is not unlawful (or you, could say, permissible) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Here’s what Judge Gerald McHugh said:

This case involves a claim of sex discrimination under Title VII and raises pressing questions about the scope of that statute. The Third Circuit has held that sexual orientation does not form the basis for a claim of sex discrimination under Title VII. Plaintiff invites me to hold otherwise, effectively contravening that precedent. Despite the powerful appeal of Plaintiff’s arguments, it is not my place to “overrule” a higher court. 

Phil Miles has a lot more on this case at his Lawffice Space blog.

The point I want to make here is that while the interpretation of federal anti-discrimination law may not have turned the corner in support of LGBT rights in all jurisdictions, it has in most states and localities.

For example, the case about which I blogged today involved an employee in the City of Philadelphia. If you work in Philadelphia, you’re probably covered under three “workplace” laws: Title VII, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, and the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance. Local law explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Further, although the state statute does not expressly forbid sexual-orientation discrimination, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission now accepts charges that allege it. (For what it’s worth, so does the EEOC for claims arising under Title VII.)

Elsewhere in the Third Circuit, it’s clear that LGBT discrimination at work is a no-no. New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination forbids it; as does Delaware Discrimination in Employment Act.

And then there’s the U.S. Virgin Islands. Yep, they are part of the Third Circuit too.

While local employment law in the USVI doesn’t reference LGBT rights explicitly, the St. John Source, which is where I get all of my USVI news (you don’t?) notes that the Attorney General takes a broad view of what protected classes are protected, and that includes the transgender community. So, presumably, the USVI would interpret local law to cover the full LGBT spectrum.

Plus, most businesses prohibit LGBT discrimination at work in their employee handbooks.

This isn’t to say that bad stuff never happens — case in point, the allegations in the case in point — but even without Title VII, most employees are still protected against LGBT discrimination.

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