LGBT Rights in the Workplace Face Uncertainty


In July, the Trump administration’s Department of Justice argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, does not prevent employers from firing an employee based on their sexual orientation. The DOJ’s filing came the say day that President Trump made an announcement that transgendered troops would be banned from serving in the U.S. military.

The two actions have enraged lawmakers, activists, and other organization leaders who argue that the current administration is seeking to eliminate the rights and protections won by the LGBT community during the Obama era.

Under Title VII, employment discrimination based on a person’s race, color, national origin, sex, and religion is explicitly prohibited. However, sexual orientation protections are not specifically listed in the law. In July of 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation is essentially sex based discrimination. The commission ultimately decided that LGBT discrimination is “premised on sex-based preferences, assumptions, expectations, stereotypes, or norms” and therefore barred by the law. At the time, the EEOC’s ruling was hailed as a victory for the LGBT community and was abided by the DOJ under the Obama administration.

The filing made by Trump’s DOJ said, “the sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination. It does not, as has been settled for decades. Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts.”

Courts are not legally bound by EEOC positions, they’re only required to honor legislation and the rulings of courts to which their cases can be appealed. This includes the Supreme Court as well. However, the EEOC’s decision still has some merit. This is because the commission enforces Title VII, has the authority to bring lawsuits based on its rulings against private employers, and adjudicates cases for federal workers against federal agencies.

Do you have more questions about LGBT rights in the workplace? Contact our Hollister employment law attorney to get started on your free consultation today.