NWLC Amicus Briefs in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Request Full Panel Review of Rulings that Deny Civil Rights Protections to LGBTQ Employees

(Washington, D.C. - May 9, 2017)  The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) filed amicus briefs in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that request full panel review of two cases and argue that sexual orientation is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, NWLC said today. The briefs were joined by 14 other organizations.

The briefs support the employees in two cases, Christiansen v. Omnicom Group and Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc . In the first case, Matthew Christiansen, an advertising agency employee, alleged that his supervisor created a hostile work environment and damaged Christiansen's reputation because of his sexual orientation. The supervisor routinely humiliated Christiansen with inappropriate and vulgar drawings and public comments, disparaging him for being gay and insinuating that he had AIDS. In the second case, Donald Zarda, a sky diving instructor who is now deceased, alleged he was fired after he disclosed his sexual orientation to a female customer, whose boyfriend then complained to the employer.

"Our sex discrimination laws should protect against turning the clock back to when women were in the kitchen, gays and lesbians were in the closet, and bigots were free to discriminate and harass," said Emily Martin, NWLC General Counsel and Vice President for Workplace Justice. "On this issue, the Second Circuit lags behind societal standards and an increasing number of other federal courts nationwide that have found that federal civil rights protections extend to LGBTQ people in the workplace."

The requests for full panel review in both cases ask the Second Circuit to reconsider its outdated decision from 2000 in Simonton v. Runyon, where it held that harassment on the basis of sexual orientation is not sex-based discrimination prohibited by Title VII.

"We urge the Court to overrule Simonton and ensure equal protection for LGBTQ people in the workplace," Martin said.

The National Women's Law Center is a non-profit organization that has been working since 1972 to advance and protect women's equality and opportunity.  The Center focuses on major policy areas of importance to women and their families including economic security, education, employment and health, with special attention given to the concerns of low-income women.  For more information on the Center, visit:  www.nwlc.org.

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