50 Employers Join for First-of-Its-Kind Amicus Brief in Support of Employment Discrimination Protections

By Adam Polaski • June 26, 2017 • 12:16 pm

Today 50 businesses representing more than 370,000 employees filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc., a case being heard by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals concerning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. The signatories include Microsoft, Viacom, Spotify, Ben & Jerry’s, Levi Strauss & Co., and more, representing companies large and small, local and multinational, spanning a diverse geographic region.

This is the first time that businesses have explicitly taken the legal position that discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex. 

Click here to read the brief.

About the Brief:

The brief was authored by Quinn Emanuel, the largest law firm in the world devoted solely to business litigation and arbitration, and states in part:

  • Excluding sexual orientation from the protections of Title VII imposes both human and financial costs on businesses by impeding the diversity and inclusion that is central to a productive work environment.
  • Excluding sexual orientation from federal nondiscrimination laws leaves LGBT employees and their families vulnerable to employment discrimination and economic disruption because such employees are protected only by a patchwork of state and local laws, which often provide less protection (if any) from discrimination in hiring, promotion, termination, or any other conditions of employment
  • A uniform federal law that protects LGBT employees would benefit individual businesses and the economy as a whole by guarding against an artificial barrier to the recruitment, retention, and free flow of talent. The status quo thus discourages LGBT employees from pursuing opportunities in cities and states that offer lesser protection, resulting in a fragmented workforce.

Responses from Signers of the Historic Brief:

Anna Walker, senior director of policy and advocacy, Levi Strauss & Co., said today:

“Discrimination of any kind erodes our ability to foster a vibrant, competitive workforce and impedes our ability to thrive as a business and as a society. Our core values of originality, empathy, courage, and integrity have guided not only how we operate as a company, but how we treat every person who touches our business, from the workers who make our products to employees to consumers. Ensuring equality and fairness in our workplaces and communities is not only good for business – it is simply the right thing to do.”

Ben & Jerry’s added:

“Since our founding, Ben & Jerry’s has been a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights and equality. We believe that all Americans should have the opportunity to go to work and access public services without fear of discrimination simply because of who they are. Protecting LGBTQ Americans from discrimination will help families, strengthen companies and our economy, and make our country more equitable and just.”

Frank Cioffi, President of the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation and Cynosure, Inc., said today:

The fight for freedom and equality to love has been a cause GBIC has valued for decades, and demonstrates our organization’s commitment to empathy, courage, and human rights. We believe that recruiting diverse talent and ensuring a workplace culture where all our employees and clients can be their authentic selves is a critical part of our corporate responsibility. We hope the 2nd Circuit does the right thing and rules definitively that no one should ever be singled out for discrimination because of who they are.”

Thank You to All 50 Signers of the Brief:

AdRoll, Inc.
Ben & Jerry’s
Boston Community Capital
CBS Corporation
Citrix Systems, Inc.
City Winery
Davis Steadman Ford & Mace, LLC
DoorDash, Inc.
Dropbox, Inc.
Eastern Bank
FiftyThree, Inc.
Freedom for All Americans Education Fund
Google Inc.
Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Inc.
IHS Markit Ltd.
Johnston, Kinney & Zulaica LLP
KEO Marketing Inc.
Kickstarter, PBC
Levi Strauss & Co.
Linden Lab
Lyft, Inc.
Mapbox, Inc.
Microsoft Corporation
National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
OBOX Solutions
On 3 Public Relations
Physician’s Computer Company
Puma Springs Vineyards
Quora Inc.
S&P Global Inc.
Shutterstock, Inc.
Sun Life Financial U.S.
Trust Company of Vermont
Vermont Gynecology
Viacom, Inc.
Wealthfront Inc.

More About the Case:

Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc. will be heard en banc, meaning before the full court, by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals based in New York, which has jurisdiction over Connecticut, Vermont and New York. The full full court will reconsider an exclusionary 17-year-old legal precedent that states employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is not prohibited under federal law.

The case is being led by Gregory Antollino, a lawyer in New York with a long history of trying employment discrimination cases.

Courts are increasingly catching up to public opinion on the issue of LGBT equality in the workplace. A groundbreaking decision from the full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in April in a case filed by Lambda Legal held that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — the first time a federal appellate court has ever reached this conclusion.

Clearly, momentum for LGBT non-discrimination is building and picking up steam. As Freedom for All Americans continues to pursue opportunities to advance legislation at the local, state, and federal level, we also applaud our indispensable legal partners for their work in the courts. This movement in the courts builds undeniable momentum toward federal resolution and provides critical education opportunities to help more Americans understand the need for non-discrimination. Together, with the strategies of securing court wins and encouraging policymakers to take action on inclusive laws, we can protect more people as quickly as possible and ensure that no one faces discrimination because of who they are or who they love, in any aspect of their daily lives.

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