Major Businesses Urge Supreme Court to Hear Anti-Gay Discrimination Case

October 11, 2017 • 10:10 am

WASHINGTON –  More than 75 businesses have signed onto an amicus brief that argues Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should protect employees from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. The filing in Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital represents the largest number of businesses ever affirming in a brief that Title VII should be interpreted to include protections for discrimination based on sexual orientation. Lambda Legal is representing Jameka Evans in the case. Evans worked as a Georgia security guard, but she faced harassment and eventually was forced to leave her job because of her sexual orientation.

Signers to the brief include AirBnB, Apple, Ben & Jerry’s, Carnival Cruise, Deutsche Bank, Eastern Bank, Google, Levi Strauss & Co., LinkedIn, Lyft, Mastercard, Miami HEAT, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, PayPal, RBC Bank, Salesforce, Starbucks, Tampa Bay Rays, Trillium Asset Management, and Viacom. A full list of signers is available here.

“We believe in treating every person we come into contact with – whether it’s our employees, our consumers, or our vendors – with dignity and respect,” said Anna Walker, Senior Director for Global Policy and Advocacy at Levi Strauss & Co. “That value is central to our business – but more importantly, it’s the right thing to do. Discrimination hurts people, holds back communities, and tarnishes our nation’s image. We’ve long made nondiscrimination a bedrock value of our corporate culture, and we’re proud to support those same values in our legislatures, in the halls of Congress, and before the nation’s highest court.”

“The HEAT are long-time supporters of equality for LGBTQ Floridians, and it’s for a very simple reason: we believe the diversity of our communities makes us stronger,” said Eric Woolworth, Miami HEAT President. “There’s no excuse for discrimination of any kind. We’ll continue to promote values of inclusion, respect, and equality – and we’ll continue standing up and speaking out when we see others in need. It’s long past time to ensure our state and national laws protect LGBTQ people from harassment and discrimination.”

This is the second time this year businesses have affirmed that Title VII protects employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Earlier this year, more than 50 businesses signed a first-of-its kind brief asserting that legal position in Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc., a workplace discrimination case that was heard en banc before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals last month.

“Diversity and inclusion are central to Deutsche Bank’s values,” said John Eydenberg, Vice Chairman, Corporate & Investment Bank Americas and Chair of the Deutsche Bank US Diversity & Inclusion Council. “We are proud to support this effort to ensure that all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, are treated fairly and equally under the law.”

The brief notes:

“Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation (a form of sex-based discrimination) is widespread and has significant, harmful effects on employers, employees, and the bottom line.  As of 2016, approximately 10 million adults in the United States (4.1% of all adults) identify as LGBT. By any measure, the LGBT segment of the U.S. workforce represents a significant number of both public- and private-sector employees.  Businesses draw on and benefit from the contributions of LGBT workers at all levels and across industries.

“…. Amici recognize that their employees are essential to their success and are, in many ways, their most valuable assets.  Accordingly, amici are strong proponents of anti-discrimination laws and policies, which are linked to higher morale and productivity.”

A district court in Georgia and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals have not ruled in Jameka’s favor – rulings that stand in contrast to growing legal precedent surrounding Title VII nondiscrimination protections. In addition to the Zarda case in the 2nd Circuit, in April of this year the entire 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Kimberly Hively, who was fired from her job as a teacher because she is a lesbian; and reversed that court’s prior precedent that Title VII did not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Freedom for All Americans is the bipartisan campaign to secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people nationwide. Our work brings together Republicans and Democrats, businesses large and small, people of faith, and allies from all walks of life to make the case for comprehensive nondiscrimination protections that ensure everyone is treated fairly and equally.

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