Odd, bizarre, contradictory, based on gossamer-thin distinctions—all these words have been used to describe the state of the law about employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.
On August 18, 2016, a U.S. District Court in Michigan ruled that religious rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) trump transgender rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC v. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., 2016 WL 4396083 (E.D. Mich., August 18, 2016).
On June 28, 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it had settled one of its first lawsuits alleging sexual orientation discrimination. The settlement—in the form of a consent decree—requires Pallet Companies, doing business as IFCO Systems (IFCO), to pay $202,200 in addition to a number of nonmonetary requirements. This landmark decree comes less than a year after the EEOC first concluded that discrimination on the basis of an employee’s sexual orientation amounted to sex discrimination.
In a recent decision about an appeal from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) left no question it views sexual orientation discrimination as falling within the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC stated its intent to treat all sexual orientation discrimination as sex discrimination, actionable under Title VII.
On February 25, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor announced an important change in the definition of spouse under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The new rule was to take effective on March 27, 2015. But on March 26, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of Texas issued a temporary restraining order putting the kibosh on the rule change.