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Litigation Tracker: Eleventh Circuit

Covers Alabama, Georgia and Florida

Outdated case law in the circuit has found that discrimination based on sexual orientation does not violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Lambda Legal is currently asking the United States Supreme Court to review an adverse ruling out of the 11th Circuit, following the circuit court’s refusal to hear a related case en banc. However, case law in the circuit has positively referenced the connection between sex discrimination and discrimination based on gender identity:

  • On March 10, 2017 the 11th Circuit wrote in a ruling in Lambda Legal’s case Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital that a plaintiff fired from her job because of her sexual orientation and failure to conform to gender stereotypes was not protected under Title VII. In a concurring opinion, the court wrote, “Because Congress has not made sexual orientation a protected class, the appropriate venue for pressing the argument raised by the Commission and the dissent is before Congress, not this Court. And for decades, members of Congress have introduced bills for that purpose.” When Lambda Legal requested en banc review before the full 11th Circuit, the court denied the request. Now Lambda Legal intends to seek review from the United States Supreme Court. 
  • The negative ruling in the Evans case hinges on Blum v. Gulf Oil Corporation, the June 28, 1979 ruling from the 5th Circuit. The 11th Circuit is bound by this precedent because it was a part of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals until 1981. The appellate court in Blum, issuing its decision just ten years after the Stonewall Uprising, found that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. 
  • On May 22, 1997, the 11th Circuit ruled in Fredette  v.  BVP  Mgmt.  Assocs. that sexual harassment between members of the same sex is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The 11th Circuit wrote, “Since sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, the crucial inquiry is whether the harasser treats a member or members of one sex differently from members of the other sex. … We conclude that the plain language of Title VII provides protection against the conduct at issue here where a homosexual male superior has solicited sexual favors from a male subordinate and conditioned work benefits or detriment on receiving such favors.”

A landmark ruling from the 11th Circuit on December 6, 2011 in Lambda Legal’s case Glenn v. Brumby established positive precedent that employment discrimination based on gender identity against public employees violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

  • The case involved the Georgia General Assembly discriminating against an employee who was transitioning. The 11th Circuit found that the agency violated Title VII and the Equal Protection Clause by engaging in sex discrimination. Georgia state agency’s discrimination against an employee because she was transitioning violated the Equal Protection Clause as sex discrimination. The 11th Circuit wrote that people who are transgender are considered transgender “precisely because of the perception that his or her behavior transgresses gender stereotypes. … The nature of the discrimination is the same; it may differ in degree but not in kind.” In an important step, the 11th Circuit also determined that discrimination based on sex stereotypes requires heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause.  
  • Several years later, on January 14, 2016, the 11th Circuit ruled in Chavez v. Credit Nation Auto Sales that a jury should be able to decide whether sex discrimination impacted a transgender woman’s firing, allowing the case to move forward. The opinion included the court’s statement, “Sex discrimination includes discrimination against a transgender person for gender nonconformity,” referencing the 2011 Glenn v. Brumby decision.

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Eleventh Circuit

Gerald Lynn Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia

Case Concerning Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation Under Title VII

Key Date: June 15, 2020 • Supreme Court Rules 6-3 In Favor fo Plaintiff
Status: U.S. Supreme Court Has Ruled
Legal Team: Buckley Beal, LLP
Type: Employment Discrimination

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 6-3 in favor of Gerald Bostock and in two other LGBTQ workplace discrimination cases (Altitude Express v. Zarda, R.G. & G.R. Funeral Homes v. EEOC), definitively stating that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

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Doe v. Volusia County School Board

Case Concerning Restroom Access for Transgender Students

Key Date: April 4, 2018 • Motion for Preliminary Injunction Denied
Status: Headed to Trial in 2018
Legal Team: NCLR & Private Counsel
Type: Discrimination Targeting Transgender Students

A school in Florida is refusing to respect the gender identity of transgender students, including a young transgender male, identified as John Doe. 

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Adams v. School Board of St. John’s County, Florida

Case Concerning Restroom Access for Transgender Students

Key Date: December 5, 2019 • 11th Circuit Oral Argument
Status: Appeal Pending Before 11th Circuit
Legal Team: Lambda Legal
Type: Discrimination Targeting Transgender Students

On June 28, 2017, Lambda Legal filed a sex discrimination case in the Eleventh District Court on behalf on John Adams, a 16-year old male student who was denied access to the boys' restroom because he is transgender.

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