Lawsuits May Widen LGBT Protections

LGBT imageEEOC files first ever sex bias cases based on sexual orientation

By Eve Tahmincioglu

Two federal lawsuits could lead to far-reaching legal protections for LGBT employees who face discrimination in the workplace.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed its first sex discrimination cases based on sexual orientation. The twin lawsuits – one against Scott Medical Health Center and the other against IFCO Systems – allege harassment based on sexual orientation.

“With the filing of these two suits, EEOC is continuing to solidify its commitment to ensuring that individuals are not discriminated against in workplaces because of their sexual orientation,” said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez. “While some federal courts have begun to recognize this right under Title VII, it is critical that all courts do so.”

What opened the door to lawsuits like these was the agencies ruling in July that workplace bias against people for being gay, lesbian or bisexual constitutes gender discrimination under the law.

Greg Nevins, a lawyer with Lambda Legal in Atlanta, told Bloomberg BNA that the EEOC’s move sends a “very empowering” message for LGBT individuals and educates both workers and employers that the law is advancing. 

It’s unclear how these cases will play out, but what is clear is that the focus on LGBT rights in the workplace continues.

Many of DiversityInc’s Top 50 companies have already taken great strides to level the playing field for LGBT employees and are known for being more inclusive when it comes to recruiting and employees this group.

Why? These three factors are a big part of the reason:

  • • The right culture — one with a no tolerance for discrimination
    • The right benefits, including for transgender employees
    • The right support system, especially an LGBT and employee-resource groups

Indeed, being branded as an LGBT-inclusive employer takes effort. Companies that receive a 100 percent score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index have to go through several qualifying steps, including offering transgender reassignment benefits.

Top 50U.S. (HRC)
LGBT non-discrimination training100%80%
Include gender identity in employment protections100%66%
Offer gender reassignment surgery86%28%


Forty-two of the DiversityInc Top 50 earned 100 percent CEI scores, as well as 18 on the DiversityInc 25 Noteworthy list. To be considered for DiversityInc’s Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees, a company must have a 100 percent CEI score.

DiversityInc Top 50 companies have long been at the forefront of LGBT inclusivity.

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