PITTSBURGH – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received a landmark victory last week when – in a legal first – a federal judge in Pittsburgh agreed with the agency and said existing civil rights laws protect gay, lesbian and bisexual people against sexual orientation discrimination.
The EEOC decided in 2015 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBT people from discrimination.
Scott Medical Health Center, the private company being sued by the EEOC, had asked U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Bissoon to dismiss the case, in part, because it argued that sexual orientation discrimination isn’t illegal.
Bissoon disagreed on Friday when she issued her ruling.
“There is no more obvious form of sex stereotyping than making a determination that a person should conform to heterosexuality,” Bissoon wrote, according to Buzzfeed.
She also cited to a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case, Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, which found that sex stereotyping is a type of banned sex discrimination under Title VII.
“Forcing an employee to fit into a gendered expectation — whether that expectation involves physical traits, clothing, mannerisms or sexual attraction — constitutes sex stereotyping and, under Price Waterhouse, violates Title VII,” Bissoon wrote via Buzzfeed.
The ruling allows the EEOC to proceed with its case against Scott Medical Health Center.
The commission had filed federal lawsuits in March in Baltimore and Pittsburgh, asking courts to acknowledge that employers violate the civil rights of gay and lesbian workers if they treat them unfairly because of their sexual orientation.