First Circuit Court Advances Protections from Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation

By Shane Stahl • January 29, 2018 • 1:34 pm

On Thursday, January 25, the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a $700,000 jury award settlement for an openly lesbian firefighter, Lori Franchina, who experienced severe harassment from her co-workers while employed at the Providence Fire Department.

In the ruling for Ms Franchina in the case of Franchina v. City of Providence, the Court concluded there was enough evidence to support her “sex plus” discrimination claim under Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, where the “plus” in Ms. Franchina’s case is her sexual orientation. The ruling clarifies in the First Circuit that the existence of sexual orientation discrimination does not negate a sex discrimination claim under Title VII. Under Title VII, discrimination based on “sex” is prohibited, and in recent years a growing legal consensus has developed in more and more courts that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity amounts to discrimination based on sex.

In her opinion, Judge Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson wrote:

“The abuse Lori Franchina suffered at the hands of the Providence Fire Department is nothing short of abhorrent and, as this case demonstrates, employers should be cautioned that turning a blind eye to blatant discrimination does not generally fare well under anti-discrimination laws like Title VII.”

GLAD, NCLR, Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and ACLU of Rhode Island submitted a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that it is time for all the federal circuits to recognize that under a correct analysis of existing Title VII principles, sexual orientation discrimination equates to sex discrimination. Freedom For All Americans thanks and applauds these partners for all their work in this case.

To view pending litigation, and where we stand in the courts in regards to LGBTQ non-discrimination, click here.

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