EEOC Files Friend-of-the-Court Brief in 8th Circuit Employment Discrimination Case

By Shane Stahl • March 19, 2018 • 3:07 pm

Last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in the case of Horton v. Midwest Geriatric. The case centers on Mark Horton, a gay man who claims that Midwest Geriatric rescinded a job offer after he mentioned his husband in an email to the company director.


The case is only the latest in a series of nondiscrimination suits brought before the courts, arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Similar cases have been brought before the 2nd Circuit, 7th Circuit, and 11th Circuit in the past year.

In 2015, an EEOC decision in the case of Baldwin v. Foxx interpreted Supreme Court precedent on issues including sex stereotyping and interracial marriage as barring discrimination against LGBTQ people in the workplace.

However, in March 2017, the Eleventh Circuit Court rejected that argument in Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital. In April of that year, an en banc ruling in the Seventh Circuit found, in a landmark, first-of-its-kind order, that Title VII does protect LGBTQ employees, in the case of Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, and another en banc hearing this February in the Second Circuit’s case of Zarda v. Altitude Express produced a similar ruling.

The position of the EEOC in the Horton case puts them at odds with the Trump Administration, which argued that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based sexual orientation in the Zarda case in September 2017, even going so far as appearing in court to push this anti-LGBTQ argument. The EEOC’s involvement in this case raises the question whether or not the Department of Justice will file an amicus brief on behalf of the defendants; the DOJ filed such a brief in the Zarda case as well as the Masterpiece Supreme Court case, which concerns a same-sex couple being refused service at a Colorado bakery because the proprietor claimed a religious exemption.

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