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Employment Discrimination: Can You Lose Your Job for Being Gay?

Can You Lose Your Job for Being GaySadly, there are still numerous places in the United States where it is perfectly lawful to fire an employee for being gay. In fact, a significant number of employers have skirted the anti-discrimination rules from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act over the years by firing gay employees. And they were able to do so legally because federal law does not specifically mention sexual orientation.

Over the past four decades, attempts to change the language of Title VII to cover sexual orientation have failed. Gay and lesbian workers do have some protections afforded to them from state, county and city laws, which go beyond federal laws. Unfortunately, this approach has been hit-and-miss.

In 2014, President Obama signed an executive order that protected federal employees and contractors from sexual orientation discrimination. Presently, President Trump has kept only some of that order in tact.

Recently, a New York federal appeals court decision gave hope that gay workers may finally be protected under Title VII. After a Long Island, NY diving instructor was fired due to his sexual orientation, the Second Circuit Court of NY found that the same language which prohibits gender discrimination also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The court found that:

  • The diving instructor was fired not only because of his gender, but because of his sexual orientation. In other words, if a person is being fired because they are gay or lesbian, they are essentially being fired because of their gender.
  • Firing a person based on sexual orientation is the same as firing a person because of gender-based stereotypes.
  • The instructor was fired due to the gender of the people he associates with. Title VII prohibits firing someone because of the race of people they associate with, and the court found the same applies for gender.

Predictably, the Department of Justice objected to each argument, claiming gender is different than sexual orientation. The court rejected the dispute. While it is likely that this case – or one like it – will be heard by the Supreme Court in the very near future, for now, many consider the decision of the Second Circuit Court a significant step forward.

Currently, only 19 states and DC prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Florida is not one of those states, although the Sunshine State is home to certain communities that have added these protections since 2015, including the counties of:

  • Alachua
  • Broward
  • Duval
  • Hillsborough
  • Leon
  • Miami-Dade
  • Monroe
  • Orange
  • Osceola
  • Palm Beach
  • Pinellas
  • Volusia

While Florida state law does not address discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, polls show that 75% of Floridians support such a law.

Were You Fired for Being Gay?

If you were fired because of your sexual orientation, you may have rights under the law. While Florida law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, it is important to speak to a Miami employment lawyer to review your rights. Call the Law Office of Keith M. Stern, P.A. today at (888) 315-8771  for a free consultation. We can help you hold your employer accountable so that you can move forward after a wrongful termination.